Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mexico disarms police in Iguala after discovery of mass grave of students

Mexico's federal forces have taken over security and disarmed the entire municipal police force in a southern city after 43 students disappeared in what appears to be a gang-linked massacre involving police officers.

Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, the national security commissioner, said the Iguala police officers would be sent to a military base to undergo evaluations while investigators checked whether their guns were used in any crimes.

The federal police's new paramilitary-like police took over public safety in the city while the army would guard Iguala's entrances in the violence-plagued southern state of Guerrero, he said.

Mr Rubido said federal authorities would "shine light on the criminal events in the Iguala area", as well as contribute to the search for the missing students.

The move came after the weekend discovery of a mass grave containing 28 unidentified bodies outside Iguala, where the students were last seen more than a week ago.

Authorities said it would take at least two weeks to get the results of DNA tests to identify the corpses found about 200 kilometres south of Mexico City.

Witnesses said several students, who are from a teacher training college known as a hotbed of radical protests, were whisked away in police vehicles after gang-linked officers shot at buses the youngsters had commandeered to return home.

Prosecutors said the Guerreros Unidos drug gang participated in the night of violence that left six people dead, 25 wounded and 43 missing.

Two gang hitmen linked to Iguala's municipal police force confessed to killing 17 of the 43 students in the same Pueblo Viejo district where the grave was found, authorities said.

But authorities are treating all 43 as missing until the identities of the bodies are confirmed.
The federal takeover came after President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed to punish those responsible for the mass disappearance.

Angry, desperate parents gathered at the university on Monday, refusing to accept that their children were dead, and blaming their disappearances on the state government.
"We will not rest until we find them," one father said of his missing son.
He declined to give his name out of fear.

"We are desperate people capable of doing anything to find our children," he said.
Manuel Martinez, a spokesman for the families, announced plans for a nationwide march on Wednesday, which he vowed would "paralyse" Mexico.

Guerrero state prosecutor Inaky Blanco said the investigation had established that a police officer ordered the students detained and that a local drug boss ordered them killed.

A total of 30 people, most of them police but not the two giving orders, have been arrested.
The motive for what could be a mass killing of the students remained a mystery.
Many relatives said they were convinced their children were taken to punish the school, a special type of rural institution for poor students and a bastion of revolutionary political activity.

"These are not the first forced disappearances and executions that we have had to deal with," a member of the relatives' group, Javier Monroy, said.

"We are governed by a society of drug traffickers," he said.

"What they do is they criminalise protest," said another father, who also declined to give his name. "They go after students, and the real delinquents are in the government."

Corruption is rife in the state, where drug traffickers have infiltrated many of the state's municipal police forces, and often work in cahoots with local councils.

The mayor of Iguala took a leave of absence in the wake of the disappearances, and then vanished. He is being sought for questioning along with the city's police chief.