300 local police under investigative loupe for killing school teachers, civilians during an unruly protest
Mexico's southwestern Pacific state of Guerrero remains tense today, after seven people were kidnapped and killed Thursday by organized crime operatives or local citizen militias at two different locations in the state's northern and southern limits.
In Arcelia, a town of about 32,000 on Guerrero's northern border, authorities found the bodies of five young men who had been tortured and shot to death. All were under age 30. A police official said the victims may have been killed as a result of jurisdictional rivalries between citizen militias in the community.
Far to the south in the tourist popular community of Zihuatanejo on Guerrero's violent Costa Grande, two men, 21 and 23, may similarly have been killed by "rurales," community police forces which often operate without official sanction. Law enforcement sources said notes left with the bodies suggested that the victims were suspected of collusion with local drug cartels.
One of the militias which operates in and around Zihuatanejo is Los Pueblos Libres, or "The Free People," which last March reported that an American motorcyclist in the area had been captured and executed by Los Guerreros ("The Warriors") drug cartel weeks before. Militia claims U.S. citizen Harry Devert was murdered by regional drug cartel, but offers no proof.
In neither of Thursday's cases have suspects been publicly named by authorities.
In a separate incident, up to 300 police officers were detained Saturday in the state's third largest city, Iguala, after three students were shot and killed during a protest. Iguala is in north central Guerrero.
The Iguala incident began Friday evening at 9:30 p.m. when students commandeered three municipal buses and ordered them to drive to Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa, a local teachers' college. Police engaged a growing group, and during the ensuing confrontation shot and killed the students and three other persons. Two dozen were wounded in the melee, but authorities insisted some had been fired upon by "masked armed commandos" - a reference to sicarios, organized crime execution teams.
Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero issued a message which said, "I energetically condemn the events in Iguala, and I will direct my attention to efforts in support of the victims." He later claimed that Iguala's police department is "completely infiltrated by organized crime."
The Mexican media site SinEmbargo.com reported Saturday that 300 local police officers are under preliminary criminal investigation for possible involvement in the Friday night massacre. El Sur de Guerrero later reported than 20 officers have been formally charged with the excessive use of force.
In a similar Dec. 12, 2011 incident in Chilpancingo, police killed two student protesters during a contentious public march. The state capital, 55 miles from Acapulco, is home to 200,000 people.
Those events unfolded after students tried to block several lanes of a major highway which runs from Mexico City to Acapulco, the Autopista del Sol. The students in that case were also from the Escuela Normal de Ayotzinapa. About 200 officers responded to the scene, and used tear gas in an effort to break up the demonstration. Students fought back using rocks and sticks, and some may have thrown molotov cocktails. Police opened fire, allegedly targeting the slain youths. The victims were unarmed.
Guerrero has a lengthy history of disgruntled school teachers joining forces with community militias to challenge local political authorities, often resulting in severe civil disorder. Guerrero on verge of civil meltdown, as teachers riot (April 24, 2013).
Guerrero has the first or second highest homicide rate in Mexico, according to government and press sources. In an Aug. 15, 2014 advisory to American citizens, the U.S. State Dept. called Guerrero "the most violent state in Mexico in 2013."
Oct. 11 - Guerrero's Gov. Aguirre says 43 missing students "may yet turn up alive"
Oct. 6 - Guerrero prosecutor: Iguala protesters were killed by cartel executioners, local police
Sept. 28 - National Action Party secretary assassinated in heart of Acapulco tourist zone
Apr. 26, 2013 - A bankrupt Acapulco can't meet its payroll
Feb. 6, 2013 - Gunmen ambush police patrol in war torn Guerrero state, leaving nine officers dead
Mexico is about to complete trustworthiness and competency certifications of the nation's estimated 450,000 local, state and federal police officers. The process, which began in January 2009 during the administration of then president Felipe Calderón, was legislatively extended several times due to the enormity of the undertaking. In the meantime, the federal government has continued to rely on military troops as the first line of law enforcement in Mexico's 94 month old drug war. Police evaluations must be completed by Oct. 29, and it seems unlikely they will be postponed again. Mexican senators seek yet another delay in police vetting (Oct. 15, 2013).
Mexico's famous Autopista del Sol, Dec. 12, 2011
Mexican headlines screamed out the bad news from Guerrero in Monday morning editions (Sept. 29)
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