Originally published on October 16, 2014, at NationofChange.org
In response to the disappearance of 43 students last seen in police custody and the recent discovery of ten mass graves, hundreds of protesters torched the Guerrero state headquarters on Monday demanding the immediate resignation of Governor Angel Aguirre. Infiltrated by a local drug gang called Guerreros Unidos, the police detained the students last month before handing them over to the violent cartel. Suspected of colluding with Guerreros Unidos, the mayor and police chief have fled in disgrace and a formal search has been launched to find them.
Committing an act of civil disobedience, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal school stole three buses to travel to the state capital of Chilpancingo and solicit donations for a demonstration. As the students were returning home from fundraising on September 26, municipal police officers opened fire killing three students and wounding 25 others. A few hours later, masked gunmen appeared at the crime scene shooting at two taxis and a bus transporting a local soccer team. Three more people were gunned down including a child on the bus.
According to witness testimony and recent confessions, local police detained the students before handing them over to members of Guerreros Unidos. Although the police denied killing anyone, State Attorney General Inaki Blanco Cabrera found bloodstains in the back of their pickup trucks. One cop admitted to handing over at least ten students to unidentified gunmen. An alleged Guerreros Unidos gang member later confessed to executing 17 of the students and burying their bodies on a hillside outside of town.
On October 4, ten mass graves containing 28 bodies were discovered on the outskirts of Iguala. The bodies had been burned beyond recognition, and Attorney General Jesus Murillo announced at a press conference on Tuesday that none of the charred remains genetically match with the missing students. Denied access to view the bodies, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal school threw Molotov cocktails and overturned a car outside the governor’s residence in Chilpancingo on the evening that the bodies were found.
Twenty-two Iguala police officers, 14 Cocula police officers, and several Guerreros Unidos gang members have been arrested in connection with the murders and missing students. Mayor Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez, his wife, and the police chief have gone into hiding and have been declared fugitives due to their connections to the drug cartel. The mayor’s wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, had three brothers working for Guerreros Unidos. Released from prison last year, Salomon Pineda is believed to be one of the cartel’s leaders in Iguala. Rival cartel members killed her gang-affiliated brothers, Alberto and Marco Pineda, in 2009.
On Sunday night, police shot a German exchange student near the city of Chilpancingo. Returning from a weekend in Acapulco with other students, Kim Fritz Kaiser was shot in the buttocks when the driver of his vehicle failed to stop at a police checkpoint. Officers claimed they were attempting to shoot out the vehicle’s tires when they accidentally shot Kaiser. Deputy Attorney General Victor León Maldonado acknowledged the travelers had an obligation to stop at the checkpoint, but the shooting had been unjustified.
The following day, hundreds of students and teachers led a protest demanding the safe return of the 43 missing students and the immediate resignation of Governor Aguirre for allowing drug cartels to infiltrate the police and local government. Confronted with police in riot gear, the protesters overturned cars, smashed windows, and set fire to the state government headquarters in Chilpancingo. Allowing government employees to flee, the protesters ransacked their offices vowing to radicalize and take even more extreme actions if their demands were not met.
On Tuesday, police surrounded alleged cartel leader Benjamin Mondragon Pereda in the city of Jiutepec. After negotiating the safe departure of a pregnant woman from the scene, Mondragon killed himself to avoid capture. Authorities believe his gang is responsible for the transportation of heroin and marijuana to the violent streets of Chicago.
“When he saw that there was no escape, he shot himself,” stated Gonzalo Ponce, a spokesman for the Mexican government.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has dispatched federal security forces to investigate the disappearances and prosecute anyone involved in their possible murders. Governor Aguirre has accused the majority of police departments in his state of being infiltrated by drug cartels. Last year, the Ayotzinapa school consented to expel cartel members from the mostly rural area.
Throughout history, corrupt cops have been working in collusion with ruthless gang members.
During the 1990s, members of the Mob Piru Bloods gang infiltrated the Los Angeles Police Department’s CRASH anti-gang unit. LAPD officer and Piru Bloods gang member, David Mack, was arrested after robbing $722,000 from a Bank of America branch where his girlfriend worked. His partner, Officer Rafael Perez, was arrested for stealing six pounds of cocaine from a department property room and later cut a deal with investigators while implicating at least 70 LAPD officers of misconduct. As a result of the LAPD Rampart scandal, 12 officers were suspended, seven forced to resign, and five cops fired for planting false evidence, committing perjury, unlawful shootings, selling narcotics, framing suspects, and covering up their crimes. Mack is also suspected of killing Notorious B.I.G., but has not been formally charged with the rapper’s murder.
In the 1920s, members of the Ku Klux Klan infiltrated police departments and local government positions in Los Angeles. Along with state and federal agents, Los Angeles County District Attorney Thomas Woolwine launched an investigation into numerous reports of Klan-related beatings, home invasions, shootings, and lynchings. Sheriff William Taeger and Police Chief Louis D. Oaks publicly resigned from the KKK amidst investigations into their departments.