Concern about sabotage of a political event was their motive
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In nationally televised press conference last night Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam said the former mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife gave the orders which resulted in the killings of six persons in that city on Sept. 26, and the disappearance of 43 college students who may have been executed just hours later. Mexican priest: 43 college students were "burned alive."
Karam laid full blame on mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, both of whom vanished from sight Sept. 30. Abarca was stripped of his credentials earlier this month and expelled from the far left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), the predominant political force in Guerrero. Prosecutors say they believe he is still in the country.
The attorney general's claims are based in part upon testimony extracted from Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, supreme leader of the Guerreros Unidos (GU) drug cartel. He was arrested near Toluca in the State of Mexico Oct. 16. The government maintains that Iguala's municipal government was totally infected by the presence of GU members, especially in its police department.
During an evening appearance which followed sometimes violent nationwide marches demanding the safe return of the 43, who were last seen alive almost a month ago, Karam said Mexico's now most wanted couple were the masterminds behind the shootings and kidnappings. Federal warrants for the arrest of the couple have been issued, according to the attorney general.
According to investigators, Pineda - said to be politically active and an inveterate supporter of her husband in the discharge of his public duties - was scheduled to deliver a speech the night of Sept. 26 on the topic of family development. Abarca and Pineda feared that several busloads of students passing through Iguala, Guerrero's third largest city, were planning to disrupt the event. After arriving about 9:00 p.m., some of the students forcibly seized two other buses, which was promptly reported to Abarca by corrupt officers known as halcones (hawks) working on the Guerreros Unidos payroll.
The mayor directed local police to detain the missing students. Karam said Abarca and Pineda had been "operators" for Guerreros Unidos since the former launched his first mayoral campaign in 2010, and called Pineda the "principal operator." All of her brothers are alleged to be active in narcotics trafficking.
When police caught up with the bus caravan, they began firing on it indiscriminately, killing three students and three passersby. The 43 missing were taken into custody by police and cartel sicarios (executioners). A witness has told investigators he saw 17 of them soon after at an Iguala precinct house, from where they were soon hauled away in police vehicles.
Karam said last night that the students were transported to Pueblo Viejo, a village on the outskirts of Iguala. There they were turned over to Casarrubias's chief lieutenant in the region. According to the attorney general, Casarrubias has acknowledged during interrogation that he was "made aware of the situation," but denied ordering the execution of the students. Karam said the GU lieutenant may have told Casarrubias that the students were in fact members of Los Rojos, a competing Guerrero cartel which has challenged GU for domination of the Pacific coast state.
Casarrubias has admitted that Guerreros Unidos paid huge cash bribes to the Abarca administration and its police chief "to keep the state calm" and to allow the cartel to operate unimpeded. The latter, who also absconded and for whom an arrest warrant has been issued, received over $44,000 USD per month, according to Casarrubias.
But in a curious reversal of the bribery allegations, Karam reported last night that the money flowed in the other direction, from the Abarca adminstration to Guerreros Unidos, allegedly to bolster the mayor's administration and help the PRD municipal government retain office in Iguala.
Identity of bodies still uncertain
Twenty-eight dismembered and incinerated bodies were excavated from Pueblo Viejo narcofosas - cartel burial sites - the first week of October. But on Oct. 14 Karam announced that none of the remains were those of the students. Two other bodies were subsequently located. The attorney general, noting that "we've just barely completed this process," said last night that Mexican forensic experts would compare their findings with those of an Argentine body identification team privately hired by families of the missing. The families have said they have little confidence in government experts.
Nov. 7 - All hope fades for families of 43 missing students
Nov. 6 - "Imperial couple" of Iguala gets improved quarters in tough Mexican prison
Nov. 4 - Former Iguala mayor and wife arrested in Mexico City
June 2 - Only seven Mexican states are well prepared to carry out criminal investigations
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