A Mexican students’ association in the western city of Guadalajara has denied any involvement in the killings of five people found buried at its headquarters and said it will work with authorities to help them solve the case.
“The FEG (Federation of Guadalajara Students), as an institution, has no connection to these crimes,” the head of the student group, Israel Mariscal, told a radio station Friday.
Four students aged 16-21 and the father of one of the youths were found dead between Wednesday and Thursday in clandestine graves at the FEG’s headquarters days after the University of Guadalajara had reported them missing.
The five had allegedly gone to the FEG’s offices near downtown Guadalajara to demand that the student group lower the fee they were charging a snack vendor, the oldest victim, for permission to sell churros (a fried-dough dessert) outside a school.
A guard at FEG’s offices identified by the alias “El tatuado” is suspected in the killings, although Mariscal said the man is not a member of the student group.
“We’re prepared to help the authorities clear up what happened,” the student leader said.
The FEG, which comprises students at Jalisco public schools, has been accused of demanding payments from street vendors in exchange for the so-called “derecho de piso,” or right to set up shop outside the schools.
Mariscal denied the accusations by saying that “if there’s some case of extortion, they should report it,” adding that “there’s a vendors’ association (and) the FEG offers them legal counseling and medical consultations at a lower cost.”
Thousands of people demonstrated Friday in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, to demand justice for the killings of the four students and the father.
They marched silently from the office of the president of the University of Guadalajara, the city’s top higher-learning institution, to the Jalisco state government headquarters.
The university’s president, Marco Antonio Cortes, led the procession of white-clad marchers, some of whom carried candles, television footage showed.
Coinciding with the demonstration, authorities confirmed that the two bodies discovered Thursday were those of churro vendor Armando Gomez, 56, and his son, 21-year-old Ismael.
On Thursday, authorities identified the three students located Wednesday in a different grave. One of them was 17 and the other two were 16.
The three teenagers died of stab wounds, while the street vendor and his son were killed with gunshots to the head.
Authorities with the Jalisco state Attorney General’s Office said a handgun, several shell casings and traces of blood were discovered at the headquarters of the FEG, which has been accused of involvement in previous violent incidents.
The FEG and the Federation of University Students, or FEU, which is affiliated with the University of Guadalajara, are rivals and disputes among their members have erupted on numerous occasions.