When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

EL ESPECTADOR

In Mexico, The Horrors We Have Seen

New revelations point to collusion between authorities and a drug cartel that may have led to the killing of 40 Mexican teenagers. Like Colombia a generation ago, a nation faces its deepest evils.

At a protest in Mexico City following news of the missing teens.
At a protest in Mexico City following news of the missing teens.

-Editorial-

BOGOTA Chilling is the word that comes to mind when considering the possible complicity between a mayor, his police chief and 30 municipal policemen in the massacre suspected to have occurred in Iguala, Mexico.

Events in Iguala, located on the Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero, were serious enough for President Enrique Peña Nieto not only to express public indignation and vow to punish the culprits, but to then send in federal police forces to take over the town.

The first result was that 22 municipal agents were jailed, even as the mayor and his police chief fled and remain missing since news of the disappearance or kidnapping of a group of secondary school students emerged in early October.

The state of Guerrero seems not to have been a priority in the ambitious security plan Mexico's president launched after his 2012 election, and which has otherwise achieved positive results in places where the big drug cartels were active.

In a poor state with deep social problems, it's not difficult to understand why one of the drug cartels and local authorities would wind up forging a secret marriage of convenience. The public officials could pocket money even while claiming they'd put a lid on pervasive corruption, and the drug lords could proceed with impunity to rake in new business. Despite whistleblowing by a few journalists who risked their lives to denounce the situation, generalized complicity helped turn Guerrero into the feudal territory of gangs.

But then comes this horrific incident, which began when some 40 high school students from nearby Ayotzinapa, where educational resources are scarce, made the mistake of going to Iguala one night. They were traveling on buses they had "borrowed" to gather funds for their school. Considered troublemakers in their own district, "someone" told the police to do something. They could not be simply allowed to drive into a territory where they were not welcome.

The first student who got off one of the buses to ask police what was happening was summarily shot dead. Police then began firing on the buses. Their passengers were hauled out and apparently handed over to gangsters, who took them to a mountainside two hours away.

A week later, two gunmen were caught and confessed they had executed 18 of the kidnapped teenagers and burned their bodies. They indicated a spot where a ditch was found containing 10 more bodies than the number they had given. And nobody knows where the remaining students are, though people suspect the worst.

[rebelmouse-image 27088254 alt="""" original_size="360x480" expand=1]

A cemetery in Iguala. Photo: Sol Aranda

There are so many questions here, and very few answers, as often happens with crimes reported with fanfare in Mexico. Federal authorities are now investigating the majority of Guerrero's 80 mayors as well as its police forces, to find out just how far the drug mob's tentacles have spread here. Indeed, the Guerreros Unidos, the gang associated with the Beltrán Leyva Cartel and blamed for the massacre, has already threatened to reveal the names of politicians that have protected it so far.

The victims' parents, indeed the entire country, are demanding that the government hasten investigations and punish the culprits. It is already probing another incident from weeks earlier, when soldiers shot dead 21 youngsters. The dead were said to have been unarmed when killed, though the army says the soldiers fired in self-defense in response to gunfire.

As the great Latin American poet Mario Benedetti wrote, we may well be "cured of fear" in Mexico and Colombia for all the horrors we have seen. And yet, a new day, a new massacre reminds us that if we think we've seen the worst, we had better think again.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner's MIA Convicts: Where Do Deserting Russian Mercenaries Go?

Tens of thousands of Russian prisoners who've been recruited by the Wagner Group mercenary outfit have escaped from the frontlines after volunteering in exchange for freedom. Some appear to be seeking political asylum in Europe thanks to a "cleared" criminal record.

Picture of a soldier wearing the Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Soldier wearing the paramilitary Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Source: Sky over Ukraine via Facebook
Anna Akage

Of the about 50,000 Russian convicts who signed up to fight in Ukraine with the Wagner Group, just 10,000 are reportedly still at the front. An unknown number have been killed in action — but among those would-be casualties are also a certain number of coffins that are actually empty.

To hide the number of soldiers who have deserted or defected to Ukraine, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is reportedly adding them to the lists of the dead and missing.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Some Wagner fighters have surrendered through the Ukrainian government's "I Want To Live" hotline, says Olga Romanova, director and founder of the Russia Behind Bars foundation.

"Relatives of the convicts enlisted in the Wagner Group are not allowed to open the coffins," explains Romanova.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest