Mexico: Protestors’ fury over missing 43

HUNDREDS of students and teachers smashed windows and set fire to a state capital building in southern Mexico yesterday as fury erupted over the disappearance of 43 young people.

State capital building was set on fire by protesters who fear police killed 43 students. Below, a firefighter at the scene. Picture: AP
State capital building was set on fire by protesters who fear police killed 43 students. Below, a firefighter at the scene. Picture: AP

The protesters fear the 43 were abducted and killed by police working for a drug cartel.

All the missing were students from a rural teachers’ college in Guerrero state.

Protesters yesterday called for the 43, missing since 26 September, to be returned alive, even though it is now feared ten newly discovered mass graves may contain their bodies.

Photographs showed smoke billowing from the government building in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, and flames coming from office windows, as firefighters battled the blaze.

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Jose Villanueva Manzanarez, a spokesman for Guerrero’s government, said the protesting members of a teachers’ union initially tried to get into the state congress in Chilpancingo but were driven back by riot police. They then headed to the state government palace.

With the support of hundreds of students from the ­Ayotzinapa teachers’ college, the teachers blockaded the capital building, before attacking it with batons, stones and petrol bombs, he said.

The violence came more than two weeks after police in Iguala, also in Guerrero state, opened fire on students from the teacher’s college, killing at least six. Witnesses have said dozens of students were taken away by police and not been seen since.

Twenty-six local ­officers have been detained, and officials are attempting to determine if any of the students are in the mass graves nearby.

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The confrontation in Iguala sheds light on a widespread problem in Mexico. Local police are often linked to organised crime. In the case of Iguala, the officers who attacked the students were working with the local cartel, Guerreros Unidos, according to some they arrested.

Monday’s protests came after police in Guerrero shot and wounded a German university student in a reported case of mistaken identity.

The victim, Kim Fritz Kaiser, is an exchange student at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico City campus, said institute director Pedro Grassa.

He said Mr Kaiser was in good condition and that his injury was not grave, though he remains under observation.

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Mr Kaiser was in a van with other students – another German, two French and six Mexicans – travelling back from Acapulco and passing through Chilpancingo just after a clash between police and kidnappers in which one officer was killed.

Police tried to stop the van, believing it was suspicious. ­Victor Leon Maldonado of the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office aid police claim they opened fire when they heard something what sounded like a shot or detonation. The students kept driving, fearing armed men might be trying to kidnap them.

Mr Maldonado said the ­officers shot at the bottom of the van, trying to hit the tyres to make it stop. Mr Kaiser was shot in the buttocks. The police involved have been detained and their ­weapons are being tested. A US state department travel warning issued last week said US citizens should avoid Chilpancingo along with all parts of Guerrero state outside of the ­Pacific ­resorts of Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo and the tourist ­attractions of Taxco and the ­Cacahuamilpa caves.

A previous warning in ­January had already advised against travel in the north-west of the state near the border with ­Mexico state, where Iguala is ­located.