Authorities in Mexico have accused the former mayor of Iguala of ordering the attack against 43 students who went missing in the state of Guerrero, another revelation regarding the depth of official collusion with organized crime in the region.
In a press conference on October 22, Mexico’s Prosecutor General Jesus Murillo Karam said that Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez — the mayor of the town of Iguala in Guerrero — and his wife ordered the attacks on the students because they were planning to protest an event organized by the town government, reported El Universal.
The investigation by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) revealed that the students were detained by police, then handed over to the Guerreros Unidos criminal group. The students were then allegedly brought to a site close to the residence of a high-ranking member of the Guerreros Unidos, known as “El Gil.” So far, authorities have found nine clandestine graves near this site, containing 30 bodies that have yet to be identified, Milenio reported.
According to Karam, a captured Guerreros Unidos leader told authorities that the mayor’s wife — working alongside the town’s director of public security — was the gang’s main political operator. Karam also said that the mayor’s office made regular payments of between $150,000 to $225,000 to the Guerreros Unidos, in exchange for their collaboration. The gang spent some $45,000 of this cash towards paying off the local police force.
The mayor, his wife, and the town’s director of public security all remain at large.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the fate of the 43 missing students remains uncertain, what is becoming ever more clear is the extent to which organized crime has taken hold in state institutions in places like Guerrero.
It is all too common for local politicians to maintain ties with organized crime groups in Mexico — although some aren’t always willing collaborators, as implied by the high number of mayors who are killed. Nevertheless, the Iguala case illustrates how this relationship may be beneficial for both parties: while organized crime co-opts the state in order to secure protection or siphon off resources, corrupt officials rely on criminal groups to commit violence for personal or political ends.
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While the Iguala case has caught the public’s eye due to the horrifying scale of the attack, it is far from unique. Just one month ago, a mayor in the state of Michoacan was accused of hiring assassins from criminal group the Knights Templar, in order to kill someone with whom she had a personal dispute.