April V. Taylor
It has been a month since 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college went missing following a protest that saw dozens of young men vanish after they were hauled off in police vans. As authorities have investigated what took place on September 26th, instead of being able to find the students, who are now presumed dead, they have uncovered horrific things that include multiple mass graves and corrupt police and government officials involved with drug cartels.
The students are all men who are in their late teens and early 20s who had been studying to become teachers. According to the BBC, the school has a history of what is considered radical left activism. The day the students went missing, they had participated in a demonstration against hiring discrimination. Witnesses have reported that the students were fired on by police, leaving six people dead. The New Yorker reported that the body of one of the students was found, “with his face skinned and eyes gouged out.” which is, “the signature of a Mexican organized-crime assassination.” Witnesses also report that the 43 missing students were taken away by police, but authorities are denying that the students are in their custody.
Investigations into the students’ disappearance have uncovered the fact that Iguala’s former Mayor, Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, may actually be working with the local drug cartel, the Guerreros Unidos, and may have ordered police to stop the student protests “at all costs.” Pineda allegedly wanted the students to be “taught a lesson” because their protest was possibly going to disrupt an event where she was launching her own bid to be the city’s mayor.
Investigators also uncovered information leading them to believe that police handed the students over to the Guerreros Unidos cartel and told them that the students belonged to a rival gang. While Guerreros Unidos has admitted to killing at least some of the students, none of them have been identified yet. The cartel has admitted to have at least 30 local police officers who work directly for them as hit men. Iguala’s police chief has gone on the run, and federal police officers have disarmed the cities entire police force and taken over law enforcement in the city. The cartel has also threatened to release the names of politicians who work for them if police officers who have been arrested are not released.
The cartels reach is thought to extend well beyond Iguala. More than twelve mass graves have been uncovered containing dozens of bodies of victims thought to have been killed as a result of the cartel and their activities. Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in Mexico to demand that the missing students be returned alive and that justice prevail.