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MEXICO

Mexican mayor linked to cartel abduction of 43 students

Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca is wanted in connection with the abductions
Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca is wanted in connection with the abductions Yuri Cortez/AFP
4 min

Mexico on Wednesday ordered the arrest of the mayor of the city of Iguala, his wife and an aide, charging they masterminded last month's attack that left six students dead and 43 missing.

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Officials said that a drug gang implicated in the attack essentially ran the town, paying the mayor hundreds of thousands of dollars a month out of its profits from making opium paste to fuel the US heroin market.

The statements painted the fullest picture yet of the control that is exercised by gangs over a broad swath of Mexico's hot lands in Guerrero state.

The Guerreros Unidos cartel's deep connections with local officials in the city of Iguala came to a head Sept. 26 when the mayor ordered municipal police to detain protesting students, who were then turned over to the drug gang.

On Wednesday, some 45,000 protesters marched through Mexico City to protest the disappearance of the students.

"We shall overcome," protesters shouted with clenched fists in the air. Marching were students, teachers, farmers and activists joining relatives of the missing students.

Protesters carried large black and white photos of the missing and called out their names, one by one, as if in a roll call in class, followed by the world "present."

Mexican authorities have searched in vain for any trace of the teachers college students who disappeared on September 26, in a case that has sparked national and international outrage, including mass demonstrations that saw the Iguala city hall torched Wednesday.

"Arrest warrants have been issued for Iguala mayor (Jose Luis Abarca)," as well as his wife and public safety chief, "as the individuals who likely organized the events that took place in Iguala," Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told reporters.

Police 'handed the students over'

Abarca "gave police the order to confront" students, who were known for frequent protests, so that they would not derail a public event by his wife, the head of a local state children's protection charity.

Authorities say corrupt officials and police worked hand-in-hand with the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel in the attack, which could prove to be one of the worst slaughters that Mexico has witnessed since the drug war intensified in 2006.

The mayor's wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, is a sister of at least three known drug traffickers, and the couple has ties to Guerreros Unidos, authorities said.

Authorities say Iguala's police force shot at buses carrying the students and handed them over to officers in the neighboring town of Cocula, who then delivered them to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

Town hall torched

On Wednesday, protesters in Iguala set fire to the city hall building in the latest display of rage over the unsolved disappearances.

Thousands of teachers and students demonstrated, an unspecified number of whom torched the building, which at the time had no workers inside, an AFP reporter said

It was the second incident in which demonstrators set fire to local buildings in Iguala in as many days.

On Tuesday, 500 teachers set fire to a political party office in the capital of Guerrero state, Chilpancingo.

Armed with pipes and sticks, the protesters burst into in the state headquarters of the Democratic Revolutionary Party demanding the resignation of state governor Angel Aguirre.

The protesters burned computers and documents, but no one was hurt.

This week, the government announced a $110,000 (87,000 euros) reward for information in the disappearance of the students.

A total of 36 municipal officers in Iguala have been arrested in the case, along with 17 Guerreros Unidos members and their boss.

Mexican authorities last week announced the arrest of the "maximum leader" of the Guerreros Unidos gang, Sidronio Casarrubias, at a police checkpoint on a highway between Mexico City and the nearby city of Toluca.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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