Guerreros Unidos Leader Captured As Search for Missing Students Continues

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Authorities in Mexico have captured an alleged leader of the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, who have been accused of collaborating with police in the disappearance of dozens of student protestors in Guerrero state.

Mexico’s Prosecutor General, Jesus Murillo Karam, stated that authorities detained Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, alias “El Chino,” on October 16 when the alleged Guerreros Unidos leader was stopped at a highway checkpoint in Mexico State, reported Proceso. According to Vanguardia, Casarrubias is the brother of Guerreros Unidos founder Mario Casarrubias, who was captured earlier this year.

Murillo stated that Casarrubias’ arrest would bring “a new way to arrive at the truth” behind the disappearance of 43 student protesters in Iguala, Guerrero. The students went missing following violent clashes with police during a demonstration. Six people were also killed after the police reportedly opened fire. Authorities have previously said they believe that, amid the chaos, dozens of students were rounded up by the municipal police, then handed over to the Guerreros Unidos. 

The case has drawn significant international attention, and the federal government has now deployed security forces to Guerrero to search for the students. As of October 18, some 900 federal police and 3,500 soldiers had been deployed to Guerrero, while 200 members of the newly constituted gendarmerie began operations in the state on October 19.

In contrast to the official version of events, Alejandro Solalinde, a priest and activist, stated that he has received information that the students were kidnapped by security forces, rather than a criminal group. He said informants also told him that some of the students were burned alive, reported Vanguardia.

According to Murillo, as of October 17, authorities had captured 36 police officers and 27 alleged Guerreros Unidos members believed to have participated in the disappearances, reported Proceso.

InSight Crime Analysis

Over three weeks have passed since the student protestors disappeared in Guerrero, but their fate — and the circumstances surrounding their disappearance — remain murky. Amidst the chaos, one thing is certain: if the Guerreros Unidos did carry out the attack, their involvement was not a smart move. Since the students went missing, the group has become a major target for security forces and several alleged high-level Guerreros Unidos operators have been captured. In addition, one supposed leader, Benjamin Mondragon Pereda, shot himself after he was surrounded by the police.   

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While the information reported by Father Solalinde has yet to be confirmed by any Mexican officials, if the students were indeed kidnapped by security forces, it would fall in line with the well-documented history of police and military abuse — particularly police involvement in kidnapping and disappearances. In an ironic twist, according to Borderland Beat the missing students were planning to travel to Mexico City to join national protests on the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, in which numerous student protesters were killed by security forces.

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