Officials in Mexico say members of a drug gang have confessed to murdering 43 male students who have been missing since September. On Friday, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a news conference that three arrested gang members told police in detail how they forced the college students into trucks, killed them and burned their dismembered bodies before placing the remains in garbage bags and tossing them into the San Juan River. According to NPR, authorities found bags containing bone and ash in and around the river, where the suspects reported disposing of the remains.
What is left of the bodies, allegedly burned in a pile of tires and branches, will be tested at a specialized facility in Austria according to The New York Times. Karam says he will do everything in his power to identify the remains, adding that there is not yet conclusive evidence that the missing boys have been found. The suspects have said the teeth and bones of the students were pulverized to make identification more difficult.
Parents of the students have been vocal about their lack of confidence in the government’s handling of the case, criticizing Mexico’s president for placing more importance on stemming the protests sparked by the boys’ disappearances than on finding them. The parents remain hopeful that their sons are still alive, reports CNN.
The Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang, purportedly murdered the 43 students after they went missing from the Mexican city of Iguala on Sept. 26, following a clash with police. At least six bystanders and students were killed before the students were allegedly kidnapped by police to be turned over to the Guerreros Unidos. With the confession of the three suspects, authorities believe they have uncovered the next part of the story.
The former mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, was subpoenaed under suspicion of involvement in the clash and disappearances. It is suspected that Abarca ordered police to fire on the students and may also have ordered their kidnapping. Abarca and his wife, Maria de Los Angeles Pineda, attempted to flee but were captured in Mexico City on Nov. 4. Pineda is known to have connections with drug traffickers. Abarca purportedly took a leave of absence immediately after witnesses saw the students being led out of town by police and was not seen again until his arrest.
The students, farm boys from the impoverished state of Guerrero, were enrolled in a teachers college that offered a steady job in the classroom and a chance to work away from the fields. The boys had been planning an Oct. 2 demonstration in Iguala to protest budget cuts to their state-funded school. The school has a long history of radical social justice movements, which have often led to violence.
Corruption in Mexico has long been a source of national strife, and it is suspected that drug gangs have infiltrated police departments. Protests and riots have spread across the country following news of the 43 missing students, presumed murdered. Business Insider reports that thousands of protesters gathered in Mexico City and the National Palace was set on fire following news of the uncovered remains.
By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa