A fugitive mayor and his drug lord-connected wife ordered an attack on rebellious students that ended in the deaths of six people and disappearance of 43, Mexico’s top law enforcement official said Wednesday.
Making his most direct accusation to date, Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam said what many Mexicans already believed: Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca feared the students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero state would disrupt a party and speech that his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, was holding to tout her accomplishments. She is head of a state social welfare agency.
FOR THE RECORD
Oct. 25, 7:15 p.m.: The source of the quote from Pineda reportedly telling the police chief “Teach them a lesson,” was the website La Silla Rota, and not the newspaper El Universal.
Using a code name, A-5, Abarca ordered local police to crack down on the students to prevent the disruption, Murillo said. Police from Iguala and nearby Cocula intercepted the students who were traveling in commandeered buses toward Iguala. Authorities have previously said that the Iguala police have been working hand in hand for some time with a criminal gang known as Guerreros Unidos (roughly: United People of Guerrero).
Murillo said Pineda is related to top leaders of a drug gang and was Guerrero Unidos’ “principal operator” in Iguala.
“Teach them a lesson,” Pineda reportedly told the police chief, referring to the students, the newspaper El Universal reported this week, based on legal documents.
The attacks on the students began late Sept. 26. In two shooting incidents, police killed six people, including college students and a 15-year-old soccer player who happened by, and wounded dozens.
More than 50 students from the same college -- a highly politicized learning institution for the poor that has radical roots -- then went missing, some being led off by police, according to witnesses. Several eventually reappeared, but 43 have not been seen since.
Authorities have unearthed 30 bodies from clandestine mass graves found around Iguala, but none has yet been tied to the students.
So far, 52 people have been arrested, including several Iguala police officers, Murillo said.
Abarca and his wife, however, vanished as the scandal unfolded. He took a leave of office and the two of them apparently went into hiding.
Murillo said the investigation had now narrowed to focus on the mayor and his wife as those responsible for ordering the attack, based on testimony from a leader of Guerreros Unidos, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, who was captured this month.
“Guerreros Unidos had weaved a network of complicity in several municipalities,” Murillo said in an appearance before reporters. Abarca paid out $148,000 to $221,000 “regularly,” much of it to buy off the police, he said.
Casarrubias fingered Pineda as the “principal operator of criminal activities from City Hall, of course with complicity of her husband … and [Iguala] security chief Felipe Flores Velazquez,” Murillo said. Arrest warrants have been issued for the three.
Students on Monday also marched in protest in Iguala and other parts of Guerrero state and set the Iguala City Hall on fire.
Sanchez is a special correspondent.
Follow @TracyKWilkinson for more news from Latin America