‘Death to Israel’ daubed on Mexico City embassy during protest; Israel summons envoy

Israel’s embassy in Mexico City was vandalized on Thursday by demonstrators calling on Jerusalem to extradite a former senior official wanted in connection with the disappearance of 43 students in 2014.

The demonstrators defaced the embassy with slogans including “Death to Israel,” “Free Palestine” and “Long live Palestine.”

As a result of the incident, Israel summoned Mexico’s ambassador in Tel Aviv for a clarification.

“We view this issue very gravely. We expect that Mexico will fulfill its international obligations,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

Dozens of relatives and supporters of the 43 students participated in the protest demanding the extradition of Mexico’s former Criminal Investigation Agency chief Tomas Zeron.

Zuron, who is in Israel and seeking asylum, is facing allegations of serious irregularities surrounding a probe into one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies, as well as accusations of torture and embezzlement.

Zeron is wanted on charges of compromising an investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. He is also accused of embezzling over $50 million and torturing suspects.

Zeron fled Mexico after the case into the mass abduction was reopened, following the election of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2019. He has been in Israel since.

Israel’s Ambassador to Mexico Ziv Tal said in a Thursday statement that despite the “dramatic incident,” he continues to believe in “the future of diplomatic relations” between Israel and Mexico. He also expressed his sympathies to the families whose loved ones disappeared in 2014 and said that Israel respects Mexican authorities’ commitment to crack the “crime against humanity.”

A New York Times report last year said Israel is not cooperating in protest of Mexico’s support for human rights investigations of Israel at the United Nations.

Mexico’s Undersecretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas told the Times that Zeron had received assistance from Israeli firms he has ties to, such as controversial private intelligence firm NSO Group, whose spyware the fugitive reportedly authorized for use.

NSO denied ever assisting Zeron, and the Times said Encinas provided no direct proof of the allegation. An international media investigative effort called The Cartel Project reported that he had fled to Israel with help from his contacts in the country’s cyber-surveillance industry.

Then-director of the Criminal Investigation Agency of Mexico Tomas Zeron listens during a press conference at the Attorney General building in Mexico City, on October 27, 2014. (Alfredo Estrella/AFP)

The disappearance of the 43 teaching students shocked Mexico and sparked mass protests against then-president Pena Nieto’s government.

The students had taken five buses to travel to a demonstration but were stopped by corrupt police in the city of Iguala, Guerrero and handed over to a drug cartel.

Prosecutors initially said the cartel mistook the students for members of a rival gang and killed them before incinerating their bodies at a garbage dump and tossing the remains in a river.

However, independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rejected the government’s conclusion, and the families of the victims continue to demand answers.