Mexico to pursue soldiers, federal police in abduction probe

Cover Image
Photo credit Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, and family members of 43 missing students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa, listen to an update to the ongoing investigations on the sixth anniversary of the students' disappearance, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico has issued 25 arrest warrants for those who carried out and knew about the abduction of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014, including for the first time members of the military and federal police, the Attorney General’s Office announced Saturday.

Omar Gómez Trejo, the prosecutor leading the case of the students from the teachers’ college at Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state, said one federal police officer was already in custody. Saturday marked the six-year anniversary of the students’ disappearance.

Gómez said that among those being sought are “the intellectual and material authors of the disappearance, and these orders include police from various municipalities, federal police, members of the army,” as well as current and former officials from the federal prosecutor's office and organized crime.

Included among those being sought are also current and former members of the Attorney General’s Office.

The students’ families have long demanded that soldiers be included in the investigation. Local police, other security forces and members of a drug gang abducted the students in Iguala, Guerrero on the night of Sept. 26.

It occurred near a large army base and independent investigations showed members of the military were aware of what was occurring. Pursuing soldiers is a significant move, especially considering President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s coziness with the armed forces.

“Arrest orders have been issued for soldiers that will be carried out,” López Obrador said. “He who has participated and is shown to have done so is going to be judged, that is an advance, there will be no cover-up.”

Six years in, not knowing for certain what happened to the students has left the families desperate. Moving against the military is at least symbolically significant.

María Martínez, the mother of one of the missing students, asked that the government “squeeze a little more,” because the families are “mad with pain.”

The administration of ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto had said the students were killed and incinerated at a garbage dump outside the nearby town of Cocula. They said their remains were tossed in a river. However, the version was largely based on statements made under torture and independent investigators did not find evidence to support the story.

Current Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said he considers that a “generalized cover-up” has been established. It led to arbitrary arrests and torture.

The highest-ranking fugitive in the case is Tomás Zeron, who at the time of the abduction was the head of the federal investigation agency. He’s being sought on charges of torture and covering up forced disappearances.

Gertz Manero said that in addition to Zeron’s alleged crimes connected to the case, he also allegedly stole more than $44 million from the Attorney General’s Office budget.