The case of 43 college students from the Mexican village of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014—and were allegedly murdered by a local narco-gang—continues to elicit outrage. Now, the parents of the missing students held a cross-country mobilization for justice in the case, arriving in Mexico City on Christmas Day. The "Caravan for Memory and Hope" departed from southern Guerrero state five days earlier. On Dec. 26, a special mass was held at the city's historic Basilica de Guadalupe in honor of the missing students, overseen by the Bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and the Archbishop of Morelia, Carlos Garfias—both well-known for their advocacy for Mexico's poor and oppressed.
The ongoing regional war in Mexico's southern Guerrero state between narco gangs and the anti-narco "community police" militia movement resulted in a hostage stand-off that was finally resolved with the mediation of government authorities Dec. 14. The episode is further indication of how the government has lost effective control of the rural areas of the state to the narco gangs and their vigilante enemies.
Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).
Fears that Mexico's controversial anti-narco "community police" groups could themselves be co-opted by the warring cartels appear to be vindicated by recent grim events in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Two rival "community police" networks are struggling for control of the main road linking Acapulco on the Pacific with the inland state capital Chilpancingo—dubbed the "heroin highway," as it is a main artery for delivering the illicit product of the mountains to exit-ports on the coast. Over the past weeks, over a score have been killed in fighting between the Union of Pueblos and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) and the United Front for the Security and Development of the State of Guerrero (FUSDEG), according to newspaper Milenio.
The former police chief of Iguala, the Mexican city where 43 college students disappeared in 2014, was finally apprehended after two years as a fugitive, officials announced Oct. 21. Felipe Flores was arrested while visiting his wife in Iguala, National Security Commissioner Renato Sales told a press conference. Mexico's Prosecutor General Arely Gómez hailed Flores' capture, stating on Twitter that it would allow investigators to get "a fundamental statement to clear up the events."
Tomás Zerón de Lucio, the head of Mexico's Criminal Investigations Agency, turned in his resignation to the prosecutor general's office on Sept. 14—amid an internal inquiry into his handling of the case of 43 college students who disappeared nearly two years ago. The undergraduate students, from Ayotzinapa town in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case.
An indigenous Mexican ecological defender is now in his seventh month behind bars, despite calls for his relase from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other human rights and environmental groups. Ildefonso Zamora was arrested by México state police last November, in connection with a 2012 robbery. But Amnesty finds "the charge is unsubstantiated and seems to be politically motivated." A leader of the Tlahuica indigenous people, Zamora served as president of the communal lands committee at his pueblo of San Juan Atzingo. In this capacity, he had long protested illegal logging on usurped communal lands in México state's Gran Bosque de Agua—which protects the watershed that supplies Mexico City. Amnesty notes that the prosecution's witnesses described the events "using the exact same words, as if reading them from a script." The rights group says this points to fabricated testimony, and demands that he be immediately and unconditionally released.
A panel of experts released on April 24 its second and last report (PDF) on its inquiry into the 43 undergraduate students from a teachers college in Ayotzinapa who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014, stating that the Mexican government has hampered the investigation. Consisting of Latin American lawyers and human rights activists, the panel of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the following: some of the suspects had been tortured by government security forces; the integrity of evidence had been compromised in the case; new evidence showed a greater role by federal security forces in the 2014 events; a lack of investigation into high-level officials; a lack of investigation into phone records from that night; and "sclerotic bureaucracy" throughout the justice system. The experts brought together the events leading up to the disappearances of the students through witness testimony and ballistic tests; they concluded that "the join action [of the attackers and officials] shows a coordinated modus operandi..."