Mexico Captures Mayor over Student Disappearances

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A former mayor in Guerrero, Mexico — who has been on the run since 43 student protesters were disappeared in late September — has been captured along with his wife, but the question of what happened to the students remains unanswered.

In a press conference, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam confirmed the arrest of former Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda. The couple were captured by federal police on November 4, over their alleged role in the September 26 disappearances.

The authorities said that they had carried out surveillance on properties owned by Abarca and his wife in various parts of the country. This led them to a residence in the Iztapalapa district of Mexico City, where the couple was caught in the early hours of the morning.

The attorney general has accused the couple of ordering an attack on the student protesters, carried out by criminal group Guerreros Unidos. According to Murillo, local police handed the students to the criminal organization, which is thought to have close ties to the couple. The suspected leader of the Guerreros Unidos was arrested on October 16.  

At the time of his capture, there were three warrants for Abarca’s arrest — two in connection to the student disappearances and one connected to a 2013 murder case, reported Animal Politico.

InSight Crime Analysis

In the public eye, the arrest of the former mayor and his wife may be seen as a step forward in a case that, despite international outrage, has progressed slowly over the past month. However, the most important question remains unresolved: the whereabouts of the 43 students. 

The government has said that bodies found in several mass graves after the incident were not those of the students, and has not yet commented on the identity of bodies discovered in nine more graves on October 23. (See InSight Crime’s timeline below for a full breakdown of events related to the Iguala disappearances.)

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With Mexico under intense international scrutiny in its handling of the case, authorities may feel pressure to move quickly in prosecuting Abarca and his wife.

The outcry over another recent scandal seems to have spurred action: seven Mexican soldiers were charged in a civilian court after Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed at least 15 of 22 victims in a June “shootout” between alleged criminals and the armed forces had been summarily executed. However, only three of the soldiers are facing aggravated homicide charges, while the rest face only the less serious charge of “actions improper to the public service.” 

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