Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Hopes to find 43 missing rise after arrest

POWER COUPLE:The arrest of a fugitive ex-mayor and his wife could result in leads in the search for the missing Mexican students, Guerrero state’s interim governor said

AFP, MEXICO CITY

Former Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca, right, and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, attend an event in Chilpancingo, Mexico, on March 25.

Photo: Reuters

Authorities sought to finally solve the five-week-old disappearance of 43 students that has outraged Mexico after catching a fugitive ex-mayor-and-wife team suspected of ordering police to attack them.

After a month on the lam, former Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca and Maria de los Angeles Pineda were captured by federal police early on Tuesday in Mexico City’s populous working-class district of Iztapalapa.

Officials voiced hope the arrests would yield new clues about the whereabouts of the students in a disappearance that has drawn international condemnation, sparked national protests and shaken Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration.

“I hope that this arrest will contribute in a decisive manner... to the investigation undertaken by the attorney general’s office,” said Pena Nieto, who last week met parents angry at the pace of the probe.

The couple had been hiding in a modest concrete house with a pink metal door, far from their opulent life in Iguala, where Abarca owned jewelry stores and his wife allegedly ran local operations for the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Abarca and his wife were captured “without a single shot fired” at 2:30am in one of three homes that were put under secret surveillance following intelligence work.

“I hope we can give you bigger and deeper information in the coming days,” he told a news conference.

Abarca was wearing a dark suit during his arrest, while Pineda had shiny earings and a white shawl, as if they were allowed to dress up before being hauled away, according to pictures released by prosecutors.

Police also detained a woman identified as Noemi Berumen Rodriguez in another part of Iztapalapa over accusations that she helped them hide.

The suspects were taken before federal prosecutors. Relatives of victims later entered the attorney general’s office, while about 30 people protested outside.

Authorities say the students vanished on Sept. 26 after municipal police shot at their buses in Iguala, 200km south of Mexico City, and then handed the 43 to the Guerreros Unidos.

Six people died in the night of violence. In one gangland-style killing, a dead student was found with his facial skin peeled off and eyes gouged out.

The teacher-college students remain missing despite a vast search operation by troops, drones and boats in the state of Guerrero, where a dozen mass graves containing 38 unidentified bodies have been discovered.

A new protest was planned for yesterday in Mexico City over the mass disappearance, which has overshadowed Pena Nieto’s attempts to steer Mexico’s national narrative away from the drug war and toward economic reforms that have drawn international praise.

Authorities have now detained 59 people, including 22 Iguala police officers, 14 members of the municipal force in the neighboring town of Cocula and the leader of the Guerreros Unidos.

Interim Guerrero governor Rogelio Ortega, whose predecessor, former Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre, resigned over the case, told the Televisa network that the couple’s capture could result in “substantial leads” in the search for the students.

Manuel Martinez, a spokesman for the families of the missing, said that investigators must make Abarca speak because he “knows where they are.”

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