Mexico arrests attorney general in Ayotzinapa student disappearances

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MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities on Friday arrested the country’s former attorney general and charged him with torture and enforced disappearance in the mass kidnapping of 43 students in 2014, as the government took its boldest step yet to arrest a of the most serious human rights scandals in recent decades.

The arrest stunned Mexicans, who came after eight years of slow investigation and what investigators have called a cover up under the previous president, Enrique Peña Nieto. On Thursday, the head of government in the case, Alejandro Encinas, labeled the disappearances a “state crime” involving police, armed forces and civilian officials, alongside a drug-trafficking gang in Guerrero state.

Numerous people have been arrested in the case, including police and alleged gang members, and many have subsequently been released for lack of evidence or signs of torture. But Jesús Murillo Karam, the former attorney general detained Friday, was the top former official charged. Senior Mexican politicians have enjoyed impunity in the past, even as corruption allegations have circulated the government.

Murillo Karam did not immediately plead and it was not possible to find his lawyer.

The search for the missing points to Mexico’s darkest secrets

The arrest “is a clear sign of the National Prosecutor’s Office’s interest in fully investigating the obstruction of justice and the human rights violations that have occurred” in the case “and holding officials at all levels accountable for their illegal actions,” it said. Maureen Meyer, the vice president. chair of programs at the Washington Office on Latin America.

Still, some analysts questioned whether Mexico’s weak, ineffective justice system could successfully win convictions in the complex crime. Alejandro Hope, a security analyst, tweeted that the case could turn into “a long back and forth, where both sides end up litigating the investigation and there is never anything resembling justice.”

The 43 students of the nationwide teacher training college Ayotzinapa were last seen in the hands of local police in the southern city of Iguala on Sept. 26, 2014. The students had commandeered several buses to go to a protest rally, according to local custom. But that night, police and other gunmen attacked the vehicles. Murillo Karam, who led the initial investigation, said in 2015 that police handed the students over to a drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, who burned their bodies in a landfill in the nearby town of Cocula.

International legal and forensic experts have disputed that story, as have the attorney general’s office and a truth and justice commission set up by the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Encinas said Thursday that the students likely unknowingly stole a busload of drugs or money that was part of the gang’s courier system for shipping narcotics to the United States. The military, federal and state police took no action to stop the mass kidnapping, he said — although they were aware of it thanks to surveillance systems and an army spy who had infiltrated the student group.

“Federal and state authorities at the highest levels were indifferent and negligent,” Encinas, the undersecretary for human rights, said at his Thursday news conference. His comments suggested that authorities might be willing to deal with powerful people and institutions involved in the attack or cover-up, such as the military. However, he said there was no evidence pointing to Peña Nieto’s involvement.

A lawyer fought for justice after a Mexican massacre. Then the government made her a suspect.

The Ayotzinapa case sparked worldwide condemnation and sparked mass protests in Mexico. It drew attention to the burgeoning crisis of the disappeared, whose numbers have now risen to more than 100,000. Most have disappeared since President Felipe Calderón declared war on drug cartels in 2006. The military, crime gangs and corrupt security officials working for traffickers have all played a role, authorities say.

Murillo Karam, a member of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, was held without resistance outside his home on Friday, authorities said.

López Obrador took office and promised to solve the case, but there have been no convictions. The remains of three of the students have been found and identified, and Encinas said the others are presumed dead.

Gabriela Martinez and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul in Mexico City contributed to this report.

The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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