Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Man held over missing 43 in Mexico

CRIMINAL CONNECTION:The man is said to be a hitman for the criminal gang city police passed the students to shortly before their disappearance and suspected death

NY Times News Service, MEXICO CITY

A child holds a flyer with the pictures of 43 missing students on it during a search for the students in Lomas del Zapatero, on the outskirts of Iguala in Mexico’s Guerrero State on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Mexican officials said on Friday that they had detained the leader of a group of criminals who prosecutors believe killed 43 college students then burned their bodies, in a case that continues to roil the country more than three months after the young men disappeared.

The arrest of Felipe Rodriguez Salgado, who was being questioned late on Friday, might add more details to the theory that the authorities have outlined.

Prosecutors say municipal police in Iguala City, in the southern state of Guerrero, arrested the students and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos organized crime group on orders from Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca.

Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, are believed to be closely linked to the Guerreros Unidos. The pair fled Iguala, then were arrested in Mexico City in November. Authorities formally charged Abarca in the students’ disappearance on Tuesday. At the same time, Pineda was charged with involvement in organized crime.

The case, which has highlighted the ways in which drug gangs have succeeded in buying off the local police and officials in many parts of the nation, has shocked Mexico and challenged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s efforts to focus public attention on the economy.

Turmoil is rising in Guerrero State, where masked protesters have been burning state buildings and cars and disrupting public events.

The families of the missing young men, who were studying to be teachers at the Escuela Normal Rural Raul Isidro Burgos, have questioned whether the students are dead. The remains of only one of the 43 students have been identified so far by a special laboratory at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Some of the families began a new search in the hills around Iguala on Friday.

On Monday, some relatives gathered outside the army base in Iguala, demanding to be allowed in to see if their sons were inside. The army said that it would allow the Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights to visit the base with relatives.

Rodriguez, whom officials described as a Guerreros Unidos hit man, is believed to have ordered the group that killed the students and burned the bodies to remove all traces of the crime. According to the authorities, he took orders from a lieutenant named Gildardo Lopez Astudillo, who is a fugitive.

Officials believe that Lopez orchestrated the students’ disappearance in September on orders from Guerreros Unidos leader Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, who was arrested in October.

Almost 100 people have been detained in the investigation, officials announced this week. The majority of those are police officers from Iguala and the neighboring town of Cocula, the site of the trash dump where prosecutors said the students were killed and then cremated.

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