Mexico: 43 Missing Students Trigger Chaos

The apparent abduction of 43 students last month in Southern Mexico has triggered chaos and a political crisis in the country. According to reports, Mexican police in the small city of Iguala, Mexico attacked the students on orders from the mayor and his wife out of fear they were going to disrupt a speech she was giving. Authorities on Wednesday provided a broad account of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the 43 students.

According to sources, Mayor Jose Luis Abarca of Iguala, Mexico and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, were responsible for the students’ disappearance. It is believed that the students were turned over to a gang linked to the former mayor and his wife, who disappeared themselves shortly after the abduction of the 43 students occurred. Arrest warrants have been issued for the couple and they are now fugitives. The police detained the group of students from a left-wing teachers’ college, who had angered the mayor during a previous demonstration, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam told a news conference.

In addition to the arrest warrants for the former mayor and his wife, Mexico’s attorney general also issued an arrest warrant for the city’s former public safety director, Felipe Flores Velasquez. Attorney General Karam has called the three the “probable masterminds” of the September 26 events in Iguala, which resulted in the disappearance of the 43 students.

According to reports, on Sept. 26, 2014, students from a teachers college, Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, in nearby Ayotzinapa, Mexico were on their way to stage a protest in Iguala. When former Mayor Abarca and his wife learned the protest would disrupt an event led by the mayor’s wife, the couple gave orders to Public Safety Director Velasquez to send police forces to prevent the students from protesting.

According to Attorney General Murillo, the students were confronted via orders that came from the police department’s command center, directly from A-5, which is the code name used to identify the Iguala mayor. The attorney general said his office learned the information from interrogations of police officers and gang members detained in the last month and allegedly involved in the incident. To date, 53 people (36 officers and 17 suspected gang members) have been detained in connection with the 43 missing students that has triggered political and civil chaos in Mexico, as a result of the student abduction.

According to authorities, it is believed that after the police took the students away, they were handed over to a local criminal gang known as Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), which was not only connected to the Iguala Police Department but was also complicit with Abarca, his wife, and the public safety director. All three persons of interest subsequently disappeared the day after the mass student abduction occurred.

This week, a Roman Catholic priest and well-known activist, Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who works with migrants and trafficking victims, stepped forward and recounted details to authorities about the kidnappings. The priest told police the students were forced to walk to a remote location, shot, and then piled on each other and the bodies burned.

The mass abduction of 43 missing students has triggered chaos and prompted a political as well as civil crisis in Mexico, with opposition leaders demanding that President Enrique Peña Nieto dissolve the Guerrero state government and assume control of the region. In response, members of the Mexican Federal Police and Mexican Army have taken over the Iguala Police Department and assumed all security responsibilities for the region. Moreover, Gov. Angel Aguirre announced on Thursday that he would take a leave of absence from office to put the focus back on solving the case of the abducted students. Furthermore, President Peña Nieto has declared that his government will stop at nothing to recover the abducted students, ensure justice is done, and the guilty parties are punished. To date, the 43 students are still missing and the recent discovery of 28 bodies in mass graves in Guerrero, Mexico has turned out not to be connected to the missing students. Moreover, Mexican authorities are offering a $5 million reward in an effort to solve the case and for information leading to the abducted students.

By Leigh Haugh

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