Mexico's embattled attorney general stepping down

Mexico's attorney general, widely criticized for handling of students' disappearance, to step down

Embattled Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam will leave his post, following months of blistering criticism that he bungled the investigation of the kidnapping and apparent killings of 43 college students five months ago.

The move, widely reported by Mexican media, is the first major Cabinet change for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. His administration has been struggling to restore its credibility after a series of damning controversies, including allegations of conflict of interest involving the president and his inner circle.

Murillo Karam, especially, became a lightning rod for questions about how the government was handling serious security problems, rising violence and new issues of corruption.

An official announcement of Murillo Karam’s departure was expected later Friday. But his apparent replacement, Sen. Arely Gomez, a longtime member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, has already asked her congressional allies for their support in her new role.

Murillo Karam was criticized in human rights circles and by the families of the missing 43 college students for seeming too hasty in his efforts to close the case, deflecting blame from federal forces and placing it squarely on local police and government officials working in cahoots with drug gangs in the state of Guerrero, where the incident took place.

He became a source of anger, not to mention a hashtag craze on social media, when at the end of a news conference to explain what happened to the students, he cut off questioning from reporters. His offhand remark -- “Ya me canse,” or “I’m tired now” -- went viral and for many reflected callousness that he and, by extension, the government showed with regard to the students, who are from poor rural mostly leftist families.

The government, facing its worst political crisis since coming to power just over two years ago, has been under pressure to make significant changes that might restore public confidence. Peña Nieto’s approval rating is at its lowest. But he had resisted heeding those demands until now.

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