The students, all from a rural teaching college in the south western region of Guerreo, were last seen on 26th September in Iguala being bundled into police cars at gunpoint. Many of the students, who saw teaching as a way to escape poverty, had been fundraising to campaign against new education laws that they claim create unfair hiring practises for rural teachers.
On their way home, the three buses they were in were set upon by the local police who open fired killing 6 people at the scene. 26 local police have been detained and, from their testimony, it appears they have links with the local drug cartel: Guerreros Unidos (Warriors United). Collaboration between drug cartels and municipal police is a widespread problem in Mexico – especially in rural areas.
The mass graves that had been discovered potentially containing the bodies of the students do not match DNA evidence of the victims. The bodies were badly charred and therefore unidentifiable leading to family and friends fearing the worst. But the forensic tests which came back at the end of the week determined the bodies are not those of the missing students.
The authorities are searching for Iguala’s mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who allegedly has links with Guerreros Unidos and has been on the run with his wife and chief of security since police attacked the students.
Guerrero’s Ayotzinapa training college, where the students were studying, has a history of radical left-wing activism. It remains unclear why they were targeted. It could be that they refused to pay extortion money to a cartel or because of their political beliefs
The impoverished rural area of Guerreo is besieged by local cartels, corrupt regional governments and armed vigilante groups. The abductions have led to a wave of protests across Mexico in many major cities including Mexico City, where chanted “They took them alive. We want them alive.”
Last week students and teachers clashed with police in the Guerreo state capital, Chilpancingo, calling for the missing students to be returned. They set the government building alight after making sure that everyone had left the building.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said there would be “no impunity” for the people responsible for the abductions of the students – all of whom are young men from poor backgrounds.
Photo Credits: AFP