A mass grave found in Mexico is believed to contain the remains of 43 students who were abducted by police in September. But why were they abducted and what does this say about modern day Mexico?
When the students were abducted, they were in coaches on their way to the town of Iguala in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. They were planning to protest at an event held by the wife of the town’s mayor, but their journey was cut short when members of the local police force stopped the buses they were traveling on and opened fire. 3 students were killed by the officers and another 40 were abducted.
According to Mexico’s Attorney General, it is believed that after the students were abducted they were handed over by Jose Luis Abarca, the mayor of Iguala, to a Guerraran gang called Los Guerreros Unidos who killed them and left the bodies in a ditch where the they were set alight. But though human remains have been found which are believed to be the missing students, they are so badly charred it has only been possible to identify the DNA of one student.
Both Abarca and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda have been arrested and charged with organising the abduction and killing of the students. It was later revealed that Pineda was part of the top leadership of Los Guerreros Unidos and used her position in power to accumulate a large personal fortune.
The incident has sparked Anti-corruption protests and demonstrations across Mexico. Thousands of people gathered in the streets, urging the government to do more to find the missing students and to express their frustration at the fact that the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has not been able to deliver on his promises to remove corruption from public bodies, especially at a local level. Indeed, Peña Nieto himself has been at the centre of a row over building contracts after he was accused of a conflict of interest after awarding a $4.3 billion rail contract to a company owned by a businessman who is one of his close associates and had also built a lavish mansion for Nieto’s wife.
The Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures how corrupt a country is perceived to be based on its public sector, ranked Mexico as one of the most corrupt OECD countries. Peña Nieto accuses those of protesting against corruption of having a ‘general interest to destabilise and, above all, attack the national project that we are pushing forward’ . However, with increasing frustration and no sign of the protests subsiding it would seem that there is no easy way forward.