Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Mexico arrests military officials in 2014 missing student case

Authorities arrest retired colonel weeks after a commission declared the disappearance of 43 students a “state crime”.

Mexican authorities have arrested a retired army colonel and two other military officials for their alleged involvement in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students, a senior government official said, while families continue to seek answers and accountability.

Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejia announced on Thursday that the government had issued arrest warrants for four military personnel.

Three were taken into custody, including the former commander of the army base in the southwestern city of Iguala where the students at the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College were kidnapped, Mejia said.

“At the moment, three of them have been executed and there are three detainees, including the then commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion,” the deputy minister told reporters.

Mejia did not name those arrested, but the commander of the Iguala base at the time was Jose Rodriguez Perez.

Last month, a truth commission blamed military personnel for the disappearance of students who confiscated local buses to go to Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre.

Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas, who headed the commission, said in August that information, confirmed by emergency calls, indicated that “six of the 43 missing students were being held [for] several days” before he was allegedly handed over to Perez.

“The six students were said to have been alive for up to four days after the events and were killed and disappeared on the orders of the colonel, allegedly then-Colonel Jose Rodriguez Perez.”

The 2014 enforced disappearance sparked mass protests and international condemnation of the government of then-President Enrique Pena Nieto. The students’ families have since continued to seek justice and answers about what happened.

Authorities had said the students were likely killed after being handed over to local drug gangs. Her remains have never been found, but cremated bone fragments have been attributed to three students.

In 2019, the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador resumed investigations into enforced disappearances.

Authorities have since issued arrest warrants for several former officers, including Tomas Zeron, who was the chief of federal investigations at the time of the kidnappings and remains on the run in Israel.

Last month, federal prosecutors also arrested former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam in connection with the case on charges of enforced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice.

The arrests of military officials this week came after Mexico’s Senate passed legislation that would give control of the country’s National Guard to the military, sparking an outcry over the army’s growing power.

Lopez Obrador has dismissed concerns about the increasing militarization of public security, saying the National Guard must now be under military command to prevent corruption.

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