Police Accused of ‘Disappearing’ 5 Youths in Veracruz, Mexico

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Another group of youths in Mexico have gone missing, leading to the arrest of a police chief and six other officers, which may reawaken the controversy around local police corruption in Mexico and the government’s subsequent response.

One teenage girl and four young men were abducted on January 11 after being detained by police at a gas station in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. According to Luis Angel Bravo Contreras, the attorney general of Veracruz state, the officers handed the youths over to an unnamed criminal organization, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported.

The youths were reportedly driving back from a beach vacation and were stopped for speeding. 

As of January 18, the federal attorney general’s office, known by its Spanish acronym the PGR, assumed control of the investigation into the disappearance. “We don’t trust the authorities in Veracruz at all,” one of the fathers of the missing youths told Animal Politico.

Some 140 state and federal officers are still searching for the missing youths. A vehicle matching the one driven by the disappeared was found in a neighboring town a few days after the disappearance and will be subjected to forensic testing, reported teleSur.

InSight Crime Analysis

The quick intervention of both state and federal authorities in the latest disappearance suggests that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration does not want the international embarrassment and blowback that followed the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero in September 2014, in a disturbingly similar situation.

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In that case, the government fumbled the investigation. Their conclusions – maintaining that local police in Iguala kidnapped the students and then handed them over to the criminal organization Guerreros Unidos — was sharply criticized in a 560-page report by a panel of judicial experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Like Guerrero, Veracruz is plagued by violence connected to criminal gangs, the strongest of which are the Zetas. The prospect of state police collaborating with criminal gangs — as suggested by the investigation thus far — would not be an implausible scenario in Veracruz. However, it remains to be seen whether the PGR and the Veracruz state attorney general can put together a stronger case than happened with Iguala.  

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