Mexican authorities have arrested a retired general and three other members of the military in connection with the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014, the Mexican government announced on Thursday.
Assistant Public Safety Secretary Ricardo Mejia said among those arrested was a former military officer who commanded an army base in Iguala, Guerrero state, in September 2014, when a radical teacher training college was in charge. Students are kidnapped.
A fourth arrest was expected soon, Mejía said, and a government official with knowledge of the case later confirmed that another member of the military had been arrested, discussing the matter on the condition of anonymity.
Meja did not name those arrested, but the commander of the Iguala base at the time was Jose Rodriguez Perez, a colonel at the time. Just a year after the student disappeared, Rodriguez was promoted to brigadier general as the family of the missing student already had suspicions about military involvement and demanded access to the base.
Government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Rodriguez was arrested and said he was being held at a military facility. The source would only say of the other arrested persons, two of whom were officers and the third a soldier.
Last month, a government truth commission re-investigating the case released a report that said Rodriguez was allegedly responsible for the disappearance of six students.
Alejandro Encinas, the deputy interior minister leading the committee, said last month that six missing students were allegedly held in warehouses for several days before being handed over to Rodrigo , who ordered them to be killed.
The report called the disappearances a “state crime,” stressing that authorities have been keep an eye on students They have left the Teachers College in Ayoqinapa since that night when they were abducted from campus by local police in the town of Iguala. A soldier who infiltrated the school was one of the kidnapped students, and Encinas claimed the army did not follow its own protocol and tried to rescue him.
“There is also information confirming the emergency 089 call that 6 of the 43 missing students were allegedly held for several days, they are still alive, they call it the old warehouse and from there they were handed over to the colonel,” Encinas Say. “The six students were allegedly alive for up to four days after the incident and were killed and missing at the order of the colonel, then-Colonel Jose Rodriguez Perez.”
Many government and independent investigations have failed to draw a conclusive account of what happened to the 43 students, but local police appear to have pulled the students off several buses in Iguala that night and handed them over A drug gang. The motivation is unclear. Their bodies have never been found, but charred bone fragments have been matched to three of the students.
The military’s role in the disappearance of students has long been a source of tension between families and the government. From the outset, there have been questions about the military’s knowledge of what happened and its possible involvement. For years, the students’ parents have asked for permission to search the military base in Iguala. They did not gain access with Encinas and the Truth Commission until 2019.
Shortly after the truth commission report, the Attorney General’s Office announced 83 arrest warrants, 20 of them against military personnel.then federal agents The arrest of Jesus Murillo Callamwas the attorney general at the time.
Suspicions have grown in the weeks since the arrest warrant was announced, as no arrests have been announced. The government of President Andres Manuel López Obrador has also established unprecedented close public relations with the military.
The president has pushed to transfer the newly created National Guard to full military authority, and his allies in Congress are trying to extend the military’s continued policing role on the streets until 2028.
On Thursday, Mejía also dismissed any suggestion that José Luis Abarca, who was then mayor of Iguala, would be released after a judge exonerated him of kidnapping the students for lack of evidence. Even without the aggravated kidnapping charges, Abarca faces other charges of organized crime and money laundering, and Mejía said the judge’s latest decision will be challenged. The judge also pardoned 19 others, including the man who was serving as the Iguala police officer at the time.
The Miguel Augustine Center for Professional Human Rights and other NGOs, which support the families of students, said in a joint statement on Thursday that the government has so far not informed the families of the case against Rodriguez and the charges he will face.
If the prosecution of Rodriguez does progress on “hard evidence,” they said, it could be very relevant to holding the military accountable. The statement said there was “substantial” evidence that soldiers at the Iguala base colluded with organised crime.
The groups also called on authorities to appeal the judge’s decision to pardon Abarka and others. They said the ruling was the result of ineffective work by the attorney general’s office, which originally brought the allegations, including the widespread use of torture that led to the exclusion of much evidence.