A mayor and four municipal police officers were arrested for the grisly murder of 10 people in Mexico's turbulent state of Michoacán, an event that could prompt debate over the slow implementation of the country's principal police reform program.
Michoacán Attorney General José Martín Godoy Castro said four police officers forced a group of people at a grocery store in the town of Cuitzeo into a pickup truck on July 29, reported AFP. The next day, 10 incinerated bodies were found in the burned out truck. Citing unidentified witnesses, Godoy Castro said the officers had abducted the individuals on orders from Juan Carlos Arreygue, mayor of the municipality of Álvaro Obregón.
Michoacán Gov. Silvano Aureoles Conejo said that it was likely the gruesome killings were related to disputes over territorial control in the drug trade, reported Cambio de Michoacán. The governor went on to say that according to federal authorities, Arreygue had links to the now deceased Enrique "Kike" Plancarte, a former leader in the Knights Templar cartel. Plancarte was killed in a confrontation with the Mexican Navy in 2014 in the state of Querétaro.
On August 1, Aureoles Conejo said that the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional) and the Attorney General's Office had previously found evidence linking the mayor to organized crime, reported Cambio de Michoacán.
InSight Crime Analysis
This case bears some resemblance to the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero, that quickly drew international attention to corruption in Mexico. In that case, a local mayor allegedly ordered police to stop a bus full of protesting students. The police then handed the students over to a local criminal gang. The government's version holds that the students, many of whom have never been found, were then taken to a trash dump and burned. However, international experts have poked holes in that theory.
In response to the students' disappearance, President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed placing all municipal police departments under the command of the state police forces. Implementation of that program has moved slowly, however, and has faced significant political resistance.
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At any rate, the program, known as "Mando Unico" (Single Command), is not a cure-all for Mexico's long-standing corruption problems at the local level. In a recent interview with Plano Informativo, security analyst Alejandro Hope pointed out that the mayor of Iguala had signed a Mando Unico agreement just months before the mass disappearance. He said authorities could focus their reform efforts on other areas to greater effect.
"There is an obsession with Mando Unico when it is number 77 on the priority list of police development," Hope said. "For me, the principal [priority] is the formation of police officers, the training, the budget. All of these topics mentioned here are 40 times more important than Mando Unico."