Tale of 43 Missing Students in Mexico is a Powerful Reminder to Cherish Our Democracy

MXStudentsRecoveryOn September 26, 2014, 43 university students in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico disappeared from the bus in which they were riding into thin air. All of them belonged to a group that had protested the killing of a local political activist. Their parents and concerned citizens in the university and the city have been frantically trying to locate the students, and now their bodies appear to have been found.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a press conference Friday that the government had obtained confessions from three suspects, who said the bus had been ambushed by police from Iguala and Cocula. According to the confessions, the students were loaded into two cargo trucks and driven out of town, where they were handed over to a local drug gang and killed. Their bodies were burned and chopped up, and tossed into garbage bags and thrown into a river. Mexican authorities are recovering the body parts, which will be sent to Europe for advanced DNA testing. Because of the circumstances, the testing is expected to be lengthy.

The confessions allege Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s wife was concerned the students were on their way to picket a party and speech by the Mayor. At her request, the Mayor ordered the students “done away with,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times reports the Mayor’s wife is the “sister of two late lieutenants in the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.” The state of Guerrero has been the site of some of the bloodiest cartel gang activity in Mexico.

Allegedly, Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s wife was afraid the students were coming to disrupt a party and a speech, and the mayor ordered the students detained and “done away with,” according to a report by the L.A. Times.

The Mayor’s wife is the “sister of two late lieutenants in the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.”

More than 50 people have been arrested in connection with the disappearances, the majority of them police officers or members of the local drug gang Guerreros Unidos, all of whom authorities say were working in cahoots.

Mayor Abarca and his wife, who is being called in Mexico “the first lady of murder,” fled Iguala, and authorities have been searching for them. Both were arrested a few days ago in Mexico City.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has said, “Mexican society and the families of the youths who are regrettably missing rightly demand that the incidents be cleared up and that justice be served.” Many Mexicans, however, doubt aspects of the story, and have dwindling confidence in both the central and local governments. Mexico is nominally a democracy, but corruption and the power of the cartels have greatly limited the freedom and security of individual citizens.

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