Authorities in Mexico have announced a fresh wave of arrest warrants against government officials for their alleged connection to the unsolved disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, bringing renewed hope the notorious scandal may see some form of resolution.
Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero announced arrest warrants for 46 government officials throughout different municipalities of southwest Guerrero state on charges of forced disappearance and organized crime, according to a June 30 press release.
The announcement came one day after authorities arrested José Ángel Casarrubias Salgado, alias “El Mochomo,” an alleged Guerreros Unidos leader suspected of playing a key role in the students’ forced disappearance.
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An arrest warrant was also recently issued for Tomás Zerón, the former head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency (Agencia de Investigación Criminal -- AIC), who prosecutors accuse of planting evidence and torturing witnesses to elicit false confessions, among other crimes as part of the government’s investigation. He has since fled the country, according to Animal Político.
It has been almost six years since the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared in the city of Iguala in Guerrero on September 26, 2014. The administration of former president Enrique Peña Nieto claimed that local police had coordinated with the Guerreros Unidos to kidnap the students, later killing them and burning their bodies in a trash dump.
Forensic evidence, however, has severely discredited this version of events and the fate of the missing students is still unknown.
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While the Peña Nieto administration actively railroaded the investigation into the whereabouts of the students, the latest developments suggest that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who upon taking office pledged to find answers and bring closure to the students’ loved ones, is working to follow through on his word.
However, international observers and the families of the missing students are cautiously optimistic and rightfully so. Days after his arrest, leaked audio recordings revealed that El Mochomo was released from jail after a million peso bribe was paid to officials from a district court in the State of Mexico, Imagen Noticias reported in early July.
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Shortly after his release, El Mochomo was re-arrested on organized crime charges unrelated to the Ayotzinapa investigation, Milenio reported.
While it’s unclear how the investigation into El Mochomo’s alleged role in the disappearances will proceed, the arrest warrants against the dozens of Guerrero state government officials are significant. There has long been speculation that local authorities were involved in the crime against the students.
Indeed, authorities arrested Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, in November 2014 amid allegations that the pair were the probable masterminds of the crime. The couple is still in jail today but both have yet to stand trial.
The recent advancement in the case is a welcome step for the loved ones who have spent over five years marching across Mexico and demanding answers. That said, there is still a long way to go before the López Obrador administration can close the investigation for good and solve perhaps the country’s biggest open wound.