Monday, January 5, 2015

Prime suspect in Iguala student massacre moves one step closer to trial

*Updated Jan. 6*
Guadalajara -
Two months after she was taken into custody in a dilapidated house in Mexico City, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, wife of former Iguala, Guerrero mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, was transported today to a women's penal facility at Tepic, in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit.

A federal judge issued a formal warrant for her arrest on charges of organized crime participation, money laundering and exerting control over illegally acquired funds.

Pineda has been under investigation since Nov. 4, as federal prosecutors sought to build a case against her in connection with the disappearance and presumed execution of 43 college students who were passing through Iguala on Sept. 26. Today a court found that the evidence was sufficient for the prosecution to move forward. Former Iguala mayor and wife arrested in Mexico City.

According to investigators, Pineda was scheduled to deliver a politically oriented speech the night of Sept. 26 . Abarca and Pineda feared that several busloads of students passing through the city, Guerrero's third largest, 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 local police officers on the payroll of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel. The mayor directed police to detain the missing students.

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 and then turned over to cartel sicarios (executioners). The government's theory is that all were killed and their bodies incinerated in a trash dump in the neighboring community of Cocula within hours. To date, forensic analysts have been able to identify only one victim. All hope fades for families of 43 missing.

Prosecutors allege Abarca and Pineda had been "operators" for Guerreros Unidos since the former launched his first mayoral campaign in 2010, and have called Pineda the "principal operator." All of her brothers are alleged to be active in drug trafficking. Arrest of Guerreros Unidos boss brings few answers in case of missing students.

Pineda's husband, former mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, remains in preventive detention under investigation for organized crime participation, kidnapping and murder. He is expected to be certified for trial soon. He has also been charged with several unrelated homicides in Guerrero state in 2013. Alleged butcher of Iguala faces more murder charges.

Almost 100 police officers in and around Iguala have also been arrested and charged with conspiracy in connection with the case.

Jan. 6 update - Less than 24 hours after her commitment to prison, attorneys for María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa have filed a proceeding in amparo, the rough equivalent of a U.S. writ of habeas corpus. Pineda contends she was held incommunicado by federal prosecutors during the initial 60 day investigation period, and that other legal rights were violated. She demands immediate release.

Jan. 8 - Pineda's amparo petition was denied today. She will remain incarcerated.

Jan. 14 - Warrants for the formal arrest of mayor Abarca were issued today. Unlike those issued for his wife, Abarca is charged with kidnapping and 43 counts of homicide. Mexican prosecutors denied that the Federal Police or army units had any involvement in the Sept. 26 crimes.

Dec. 10 - DEA arrests Guerreros Unidos operatives, in major trafficking ring with Chicago connection
Dec. 8 - Argentine forensic experts offer guarded prognosis for ID of remaining 42 Iguala students
Dec. 6 - DNA confirmation made on first of Mexico's 43 missing college students
Nov. 24 - Control of Guerrero hotly disputed by six major drug cartels, and many local gangs
Nov. 6 - "Imperial couple" of Iguala gets improved quarters in tough Mexican prison
Oct. 23 - "Mary of the Angels" and her husband were "brains" behind Iguala massacre

© MGR 2015. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced or rewritten without permission.

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