Monday, November 10, 2014

Official: Mexico's 43 Missing Students Killed

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam has told reporters that officials have reason to believe the 43 missing students in Guerrero have been killed, their bodies then burned in a garbage dump. But while the case appears to be nearing its conclusion, mass outrage over the disappearances continues.

In a press conference on Friday, Murillo Karam said that three suspects in custody had told investigators that police turned over the students to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who piled them into trucks and drove them to a dump outside Iguala to be massacred. In video shown to reporters -- see CNN Mexico -- suspects said some of the 43 had died of asphyxiation along the way.

Despite the revelations, Proceso points out that Murillo Karam cautioned reporters that because the remains have not yet been identified, the case is still open. As the New York Times notes, the attorney general said that with 72 suspects arrested, the police effort amounts to one of the largest criminal investigations in the country’s history.

Even so, the announcement has left the victims’ families, human rights groups and the general public unsatisfied. On Saturday, a peaceful demonstration in Mexico City’s zocalo ended with a group of protesters attempting to set fire to and break down the door to the National Palace. The Associated Press notes that Murillo Karam’s dismissal of reporters following an hour-long press conference -- in which he said “Ya me cansé “(“Enough, I’m tired”) -- fueled an immediate backlash on social media,  with users playing off of the phrase to signal their own dissatisfaction with the country’s corruption and criminal violence.

Animal Politico reports that representatives of the families held a press conference of their own following Murillo Karam’s remarks, in which they said they would not put faith in the government investigation unless it was confirmed by the independent researchers of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF).

In spite of the overwhelming public outrage and repeated calls from civil society to cancel his plans, President Enrique Peña Nieto set out yesterday on a weeklong trip to China and Australia to attend the APEC and G20 forums.  The AFP reports that the decision came under fire from local and international human rights groups, with Amnesty International claiming that it showed Peña Nieto’s “lack of interest in confronting the grave human rights situation in Mexico.”

According to El Economista, the Mexican leader has responded to critics by saying that it would have been “easier and more comfortable” to stay in the country and skip the summits, he chose not to because of the impact “on the economy of our country and job creation.”

News Briefs
  • The case of the missing 43 students is not the only scandal Peña Nieto is facing at the moment. According to a bombshell investigation published on Aristegui Noticias, the website of journalist Carmen Aristegui, the president’s $7 million mansion was built and is registered under the name of a company that recently won a controversial bid to build a controversial high-speed rail system. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the contract was canceled and the bidding was restarted last week amid claims that the process was the result of backroom deals, charges that the Aristegui article seem to confirm.
  • The Miami Herald takes a look at the indigenous justice system in Colombia, where seven alleged FARC members accused of killing two local community guard members in Cauca have received strict sentences for their crimes, including public lashings and 40 to 60-year jail sentences.
  • InSight Crime profiles the Honduran government’s plan to build two new prison complexes and pardon low-level offenders, part of an initiative meant to reduce overcrowding in the country’s penal system. However, as the author points out, the move is no substitute for UN-approved best practices for reducing prison populations, like implementing revised sentencing guidelines and decreasing the use of pre-trial detention.
  • O Globo reports that police in the northern Brazilian city of Belem have begun receiving testimony regarding last week’s murder of ten people by alleged off-duty police officers in retaliation for the murder of a military policeman. So far, however, no suspects are in custody.
  • The New York Times reports on a Brazilian military drill starting today in the Amazon, which is intended to simulate an external invasion of the rainforest and reflects concerns that foreign interests covet the country’s natural resources.
  • The AP reports that Argentine narcotics experts claim that the amount of drugs passing through the Southern Cone country is increasing, due in part to rising drug consumption as well as its status as a maritime bridge to the European market.