Mexico missing students: Army general arrested

The role of the army in the students’ disappearance has long been a source of tension between the families and the government. From the beginning, there were questions about the military’s knowledge of what happened and its possible involvement. The students’ parents demanded for years that they be allowed to search the army base in Iguala. It was not until 2019 that they were given access along with Encinas and the Truth Commission.

Shortly after the truth commission report, the Attorney General’s Office announced 83 arrest orders, 20 for members of the military. Then federal agents arrested Jesús Murillo Karam, who was attorney general at the time.

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Doubts had been growing in the weeks since the arrest orders were announced because no arrests had been announced. The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also formed a closer public bond with the military than any in recent memory.

The president pushed to shift the newly created National Guard under full military authority and his allies in congress are trying to extend the time for the military to continue a policing role in the streets to 2028.

On Thursday, Mejía also dismissed any suggestion that José Luis Abarca, who was mayor of Iguala at the time, would be released from prison after a judge absolved him of responsibility for the student’s abduction based on a lack of evidence. Even without the aggravated kidnapping charge, Abarca still faces other charges for organised crime and money laundering, and Mejía said the judge’s latest decision would be challenged. The judge similarly absolved 19 others, including the man who was Iguala’s police at the time.

A soldier who had infiltrated the school was among the abducted students, and Encinas asserted the army did not follow its own protocols and try to rescue him.

The Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Centre and other nongovernmental organisations that have supported the families of the students said in a joint statement on Thursday that the government had so far not notified the families of the case against Rodríguez nor the charges he would face.

They said that if the prosecution of Rodríguez did advance on “solid evidence” it could be very relevant for holding the military accountable. The statement noted that there was “abundant” evidence about the collusion of soldiers from the Iguala base with organised crime.

The organisations also called on authorities to appeal the judge’s decision absolving Abarca and others. They said the ruling was the result of poor work by the Attorney General’s Office that originally brought the charges, including the extensive use of torture, which led much of the evidence to be excluded.

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