Police in Guerrero state, Mexico, collaborated with a drug cartel to kill a group of student protesters, according to the state attorney general, highlighting the often blurred line between criminals and law enforcement across the country.

Guerrero Attorney General Iñaky Blanco said that police in the city of Iguala had handed 17 student protesters to the Guerreros Unidos -- a splinter group of the Beltran Leyva Organization -- reported Animal Politico. Two members of the group confessed to killing the students, and said that 30 officers in Iguala's municipal police were members of their cartel, according to the official.

The protest took place in the city of Iguala on September 26, with students from a local teacher's college protesting job discrimination against teachers from rural areas. Police opened fire on buses transporting the protesters, killing six, then reportedly herded a large group of students into police vehicles and drove away. Forty-three students are still missing.

Blanco also announced that 28 bodies had been found in mass graves close to the city, in the same area where the two detainees said they had killed the students. The authorities haven't yet identified the bodies, due to their state of decomposition.

InSight Crime Analysis

If the attorney general's statement is accurate, the case underscores the often close relationship between state and criminal actors in the region. An arrest warrant has been issued for Iguala's mayor, who is accused of taking part in the violence, while the city's police chief is also under investigation. 

The Guerreros Unidos formed as a breakaway faction of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), following the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in 2009. The group is engaged in a bitter turf war with Los Rojos -- another splinter cell of the BLO -- and the Knights Templar for control of Guerrero's drug trafficking routes.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profile

The case of the student disappearances also highlights Mexico's dismal record on human rights, coming soon after claims that the army executed 22 suspected criminals. Amnesty International has reported (pdf) that criminal groups often collaborated with public officials to commit extrajudicial killings under the administration of former President Felipe Calderon, during which over 26,000 people were reported missing.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...