Mexico finds 129 bodies – but no missing students

A woman with her hand painted red to signify blood. Picture: AP
A woman with her hand painted red to signify blood. Picture: AP
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THE search for 43 missing college students in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero has turned up at least 60 clandestine graves and 129 bodies over the past ten months, the country’s attorney general has said.

None of the remains was connected to those who disappeared after a clash with police in the city of Iguala on 26 September last year, and authorities do not believe any will be.

Prosecutors say the students were turned over to a drugs gang who killed them and incinerated their bodies, in a case that has put attention on the huge number of people who have gone missing in Guerrero and other Mexican states where drug violence is widespread.

The number of bodies and graves found from October to May could possibly be higher than in its report, the attorney general’s office said, because its response to a freedom of information request covers only those instances in which its mass grave specialists got involved.

Federal authorities began turning up unmarked graves after beginning an investigation into the disappearance of the 43 young men following the confrontation between students and police that resulted in six confirmed deaths in Iguala, a city of 120,000 people 160 miles south of Mexico City.

More than 20,000 people are listed as missing across Mexico, and there are many “disappeared” in Guerrero, a state that is a major opium producer and the battleground among several cartels warring over territory and drug smuggling routes.

The government has said there is no evidence the 43 students were involved in the drug trade but that they were mistaken for a rival gang.

Many people are questioning the government’s version of what happened to the students, including parents and the National Human Rights Commission, which last week issued a report outlining at least 30 omissions in the investigation that would help determine the youths’ fate. Some were very basic investigation procedures that were never performed.

On Sunday, a few hundred people led by parents of the missing youths marched in Mexico City to call for justice in the case. Demonstrations have been held on the 26th of each month since the incident.

Of the 129 remains found in the graves, 112 were men, 20 women and the rest were undetermined, according to the attorney general’s office. Authorities listed only 16 of the remains as identified as of 13 July.

Meanwhile, federal authorities say they have arrested 22 Colombians and three Mexicans accused of using greenhouses to grow genetically modified and cloned marijuana.

A statement issued by the federal police said the operation in the northern state of Jalisco consisted of three greenhouses each of 20,000sq ft. Officers found a total of 7,000 “mother plants” of marijuana that had been genetically modified and cloned.

According to the statement, the Colombians said they had been contacted by e-mail offering them jobs in the Mexico and had ended up at the site in the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zunia. They were paid in dollars.

Weeks after drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman allegedly got inside help in a daring escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico, a federal judge has ordered three officials who worked in the jail’s monitoring centre at the time of the escape to be formally taken into custody.

Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, used an elaborate tunnel system constructed under the Altiplano prison in Almoloya to slip out of his cell on 11 July.

The judge described the employees as the person in charge of the prison’s video surveillance control centre and two guards. There were inconsistencies in the supervisor’s statements and there was no explanation for why the guards did not answer the telephone in their module.

The judge … said he wanted to look more closely at why the two guards had not answered the phone at the time of the escape.

He added that there was insufficient evidence to jail four other suspects.