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Experts say Mexico is obstructing the investigation into 43 missing students

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How could 43 people go missing in Mexico and remain missing for eight years? Since 2014, nobody has seen the students abducted from a rural teachers college. The government has insisted that a drug gang might have mistaken them for rivals and killed them. Now, international experts say Mexico's government falsified evidence and is obstructing the investigation. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Nearly eight years later, Francisco Cox, a criminal lawyer from Chile, says his group still cannot say what happened to the students.

FRANCISCO COX: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "That's because of the destruction and concealment of evidence, as well as the construction of a lie at the highest levels of government," says Cox, who released the group's third report yesterday to reporters and relatives of the missing students.

Angela Buitrago, a former Colombian prosecutor, says the experts, backed by the Organization of American States, obtained new documents thanks to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. They show that investigators, prosecutors and even Mexico's military altered evidence in crime scenes. A government drone video never released before showed Mexican marines and others rummaging through a garbage dump for hours and even starting a fire where the students were allegedly killed. Buitrago says despite better cooperation, there are still obstacles.

ANGELA BUITRAGO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "To this day, there are institutions that just won't turn over documents," she says. And that's tough for Cristina Bautista Salvador to hear. Her 19-year-old son, Benjamin, was one of the 43 missing students.

CRISTINA BAUTISTA SALVADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Imagine how you would feel seven years and six months without your child," she says. She hopes the group of experts keep working to find the truth.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.

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