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.
Communal farmers from the pueblo of San Pedro Apatlaco in Mexico's Morelos state clashed Aug. 30 with federal riot police at a protest over construction of an aqueduct bringing water to a new gas-fired power plant under construction at nearby Huexca, Yecapixtla municipality. The clash took place as police tried to clear a bridge the protesters were occupying, linking the municipalities of Cuautla and Ayala through Apatlaco pueblo (which lies in Ayala). The farmers were attempting to bar a crew from the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) from blocking off a common area long used by residents for the aqueduct right-of-way. Troops from the new federal anti-riot force, the Unified Command (Mando Unico), were brought in to clear the bridge. Some 15 protesters were detained, with injuries reported on both sides. Opponents say the aqueduct will pass through more than 100 eijidos (agricultural collectives) and communcal lands, and that the affected communities were not consulted. There were similar protests two years ago over construction of the gas pipeline feeding the plant, part of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM). (El Sol de Cuautla, Diario de Morelos, La Jornada, Educa, Aug. 31; La Unión de Morelos, Excelsior, Aug. 30)
The Mexican state of Jalisco is bracing for a feared explosion of violencie after the son of the country's top drug lord was kidnapped by rivals. Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar was seized by gunmen along with some 10 of his minions as they dined at an upscale restaurant in the resort town of Puerta Vallarta on Aug. 15. Guzmán Salazar is the son of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, imprisoned kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel. Jalisco authorities believe the kidnapping was perpetrated by the state's reigning criminal machine, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has been resisting an incursion by the Sinaloa competition.
A group of mothers in the Mexican state of Veracruz who came together to search for missing loved ones announced Aug. 14 that they had disovered a total of 28 clandestine graves with remains of some 40 bodies. The women banded together under the name Colectivo Solecito to search for their kin after growing tired of waiting for authorities to do so. They said they found the graves since Aug. 1 in an area north of the port of Veracruz. The group's Lucia de los Angeles Diaz Genaocalled the area "a great cemetery of crime" that is used "like a camp to kill people who have been kidnapped." The discovered remains have been exhumed and delivered to police for forensic analysis.
According to a report issued by Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 22 civilians were executed during a May 2015 drug raid in Michoacán. The report, issued Aug. 18, states that among the 43 individuals killed during the drug bust, including one police officer, 22 civilians died as a result of "arbitrary execution," and an additional four were killed from "excessive use of force." While Mexican authorities continue to say the civilians were killed during the gunfight, the human rights commission maintains that the 22 were executed, and said that police placed guns next to 16 bodies in an attempt to substantiate their false claims. The human rights watchdog also found that the Michoacán Attorney General's Office was at fault for mishandling the ballistics evidence. The country's National Security Commission continues to support the actions of the police, saying, "The the use of arms was necessary and the police acted...in legitimate defense."
Following the horrific massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Latin American media are noting a similar deadly attack earlier this year that failed to make world headlines—in Xalapa, capital of Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. That happened on May 21, when a group of heavily armed men opened fire on patrons at the city's La Madame gay bar, killing seven and wounding 12. As in the far bloodier Orlando attack, an AR-15 rifle was used. Some of the gunmen were also armed with AK-47s. The Veracruz Public Security Secretariat said this was just another massacre in the wars between rival drug cartels that have been convulsing Mexico for a decade now. But, as the Yucatan Times points out, the fact that the shooters seemed to fire randomly into the crowded bar may point to another motive.
Federal police opened fire on striking teachers blocking a road through Mexico's southern Oaxaca state, leaving six dead—a significant escalation in the battle over the government's proposed education reform. Some 50 civilians and a similar number of federal and state police officers were also reported injured in the May 20 clash at Nochixtlán. Striking teachers and their left-wing supporters set vehicles on fire at the roadblock. Followers of the dissident CNTE teacher's union have been blocking roads across Mexico's south to oppose the reform program. The state-owned oil company, Pemex, has warned that it may be forced to close a refinery in the area if the highway linking Oaxaca to Mexico City remains blocked. The clash comes two days after the leader of the Oaxaca section of the CNTE, Rubén Núñez, was ordered imprisoned by federal authorities on corruption charges that are rejected as political by the union. (Animal Politico, The Guardian, June 20; El Universal, PubliMetro, June 18)
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.