An independent Mexican commission has found serious flaws in an investigation into the apparent massacre of 43 students last year, dealing a fresh blow to President Enrique Pena Nieto over a scandal that has blighted his administration.
The case became a symbol of impunity over disappearances, and plunged Pena Nieto into his deepest crisis, after the 43 trainee teachers were abducted in Iguala,and very likely murdered, by a drug gang working with corrupt police in southwest Mexico last September.
The report by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said the attorney general’s office, which has only identified the remains of one of the 43, still had not compiled basic information about the victims, who came from poor backgrounds. Nor had it properly investigated 11 suspects in the case, the CNDH found.
Mexican navy and federal police personnel take notes at the scene where the bodies of two men were dumped in the Pacific coast resort city of Acapulco, Mexico, Saturday Feb. 5, 2010. The two bodies had their heads bound in plastic tape and their hands and feet bound with gaffer tape. They had been shot in the head and neck and a warning message to a rival drug gang was left behind. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)
Mexico has been experiencing a violent and ongoing drug war for years, fueling continued armed conflict among drug cartel rivals. Cartel groups such as the Los Zetas and Knights Templar, have been fighting each other for regional control, as well as engaging in conflict with government forces and civilian groups. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the illicit drug market, in 2007 they were in control of 90% of the cocaine entering the United States.
Mexico also has strict gun laws, which limits the options for its people to effectively protect themselves and their families when the police or military are unable or unwilling to do so. Many lawyers, judges, and others in the criminal justice fields wont attempt to seek charges against any cartel members in fear for their life and that of their loved ones. Many politicians, judges, and even police chiefs have been executed.
However, despite the impending danger of doing so, citizens have begun to form militias in order to protect their communities, and battle the cartels. More than 100 women in the Southern town of Xaltianguis have taken up arms to protect their community from organized crime. They learn how to use firearms, and work to schedule their guard duty around their home lives.
Self-defense groups in the hills of central Mexico have also been battling with cartels. Vigilante groups have started appearing in several Mexican states, with the majority appearing in Guerrero and the Western state of Michoacán. The militias have become increasingly well-armed and coordinated in an attempt to end the constant violence that has plagued their communities for so long. What began as a handful of self-defense groups has grown considerably in the recent months. This is unsurprising, with cartels allegedly taxing locals for everything from tortillas, cows, and other common supplies and items, and executing those who do not comply.
After years of fighting, federal security forces have failed to quell the violence. The local self-defense militias seem to be having more success. Volunteer fighters have been using old hunting rifles, armored trucks, and other items they seize from the cartel. The groups appear to be coalescing under the leadership of a 55 year old surgeon, who worked for the Red Cross in California, Jose Manuel Mireles.
The so-called self-defense groups that rose up against drug cartels in the turbulent state of Michoacán last year regrouped over the weekend, took up AK-47s, and blocked roads in several cities, announcing their return in full force – a development that underscores how the security situation in parts of Mexico is still dire, despite the president’s two-year-old promise to fix it.
The vigilantes, known as “autodefensas,” took over roads in six cities across Michoacán state on Sunday, saying the federal government was failing to protect them from the Knights Templar cartel and another organized crime group known, strikingly, as Los Viagras. The vigilantes, many of whom for months have been part of a specialized military unit called the Rural Defense Forces, also complained about not receiving salaries or adequate support from the state.
“Mr. President Enrique Peña Nieto, the people of Michoacán are mourning because the [Knights Templar] continues to kill, ambush and kidnap the autodefensas and the Rural Forces,” read a protest placard, according to Mexico’s Reforma news agency.
The autodefensas, made up primarily of farmers and other residents in the rural areas of Michoacán, began surfacing last year as armed community forces dedicated to taking back their towns from Knights Templar control. The groups, arguing that local police were too corrupt or inept to protect their communities, posed a conundrum for the federal government, which eventually folded them into the Rural Defense Forces while pressuring their leaders to disarm.
But the vigilantes have continued to occupy an uneasy space within the state as they held up their tenuous alliance with the military. Some autodefensas, including leader José Manuel Mireles, have actively resisted disarming. Mireles was arrested in June on charges of carrying unauthorized weapons. Meanwhile, some observers have accused some of the vigilante groups themselves of being linked to criminal organizations.
Some autodefensas took to Facebook to announce the resurgence of their campaign, using the page of a group called Valor Por Michoacán. “We hold [Michoacán Security] Commissioner [Alfredo] Castillo responsible as the direct culprit, along with the federal government, for ignoring the deaths left by this new war against organized crime,” they wrote Sunday.
In Acapulco, Mexico, a brutal manifestation of the drug war's violence
5severed heads discovered in front of a primary school in Mexico source
» A sign things are getting worse: The city, once noted as a popular tourist destination, is now one of the drug war’s most violent battlegrounds, and this particular story is no exception in this often-disturbing tome. In this case, the heads were discovered while young students and pedestrians stood nearby, causing panic. But for those perpetuating the violence, that’s not their concern; their concern is power and control. (And apparently, stealing teachers’ salaries.) The police say it’s likely that the heads to belong to five decapitated bodies they discovered on Monday.
Along with the 2014 escape plans, the DEA documents reveal that Guzman was still directing facets of his drug empire.
being imprisoned in a ‘high security’ facility, DEA reporting further
indicates Guzman-Loera was able to provide direction to his son and
other cartel members via the attorneys who visited (him) in prison and
possibly through the use of a cellphone provided…by corrupt prison
guards,” the documents stated.