Mass grave in Mexico: Local authorities are main suspects

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By Alexa Gagosz

Forty-three students have gone missing in Mexico since Sept. 27, last seen being shoved into police vans.

Now, on the outskirts of the town of Iguala, a mass grave has been found; whether or not the bodies are those of the missing students remain unknown. The bodies “were covered in petrol and burned before they were buried,” Guerrero state attorney general Iñaky Blanco Cabrera told reporters on Sunday, as reported by The Guardian.

The Commission of Human Rights of the State of Guerrero released a flyer with photos of the 43 missing students after they went missing during a protest.

The group was heading to Guerrero to protest for teacher’s rights when police opened fire on some of their buses, killing six people.

Gang members have said  local police handed the students over to them to be killed, according to The Guardian. The students allegedly were members of the gang.

At least 15 of the bodies are awaiting identification after being pulled out of the ditch. Blanco refused to say how many bodies were actually in the ditch according to the New Zealand Herald as the site is currently being blocked off by troops and police officers.

“We still can’t talk about an exact number of bodies. We are still working at the site,” Blanco told the press at a conference late Saturday night.

The grave was found when 30 suspects spoke about the case and stated its location. Out of the suspects, 22 are police officers and the remaining eight were gang members according to CNN.

If the bodies are confirmed to be those of the students, this would be one of the worst slayings that Mexico has seen since the drug war intensified in 2006. This event will add a stain on President Enrique Pena Nieto’s vow to fight against the violence that has plagued the country.

About 100,000 citizens have been killed due to gang related violence since 2007, according to The Guardian.

During the protests, a survivor told reporters that officers had taken 30 to 40 students and stuffed them in patrol cars.

Blanco said investigators have confirmed suspicions of the criminal organization, the Guerreros Unidos, is linked to this crime and some local police officers belong to the gang.

The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Albarca, and his security chief, are both now considered to be fugitives after fleeing when authorities received a warrant for their arrest as they may be linked to the crime.

According to BBC News, the police’s links to the organized crime has raised fear in locals and relatives for the fate of the students in a country where drug cartels regularly hide bodies in mass graves.

Vidulfo Rosales, who is a human rights lawyer representing the relatives of the missing, said to BBC reporters, “We are very worried. The families are anxious.”

Rosales told The Associated Press that relatives of 37 of the missing people have provided DNA samples in order to help determine if any of the remains found are of one of the students.

According to The Guardian, a group of protesters have blocked off a main highway in the state capital on Sunday, demanding that justice be served in this case. A huge banner that went across the road read, “You took them alive; we want them returned alive,” according to The Guardian.

When information about the discovery of the grave leaked into the school, a group of young people protested outside of the governor’s residence. They threw Molotov cocktails and overturned a car after the authorities told them they were not allowed to go to the graves and see if they could identify any of their classmates in the remains.

It could take up to two months to identify the bodies, according to The Associated Press.

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