Photo: Mexico Police Implicated in Student Murders
Twelve police officers from the southern state of Guerrero have been arrested in connection with the killings last week of two student protesters and the serious injuries sustained by a gas station employee, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office said.
The officers are being held in preventive detention, allowing prosecutors to hold them while they gather more evidence about the killings of the students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Teachers College in Ayotzinapa, the AG’s office said.
Police and students who were blocking the highway that links Mexico City and the Pacific resort city of Acapulco clashed on Dec. 12.
Gabriel Echeverria de Jesus and Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino were shot dead while taking part in the blockade of the Highway of the Sun in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero.
The students staged the protest to demand that Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero provide them with job opportunities and order the resumption of classes at the teachers college in Ayotzinapa.
The students, who are training to be teachers, wanted classes to resume at the college, whose professors walked off the job last month to demand better pay and working conditions.
Police arrived on the scene about 10 minutes after some 200 students closed down the highway in both directions to press the governor for a meeting that eventually lasted more than five hours.
Gonzalo Rivas Camara, who worked at a service station that was torched during the protests, was seriously injured and is in a coma.
A judge issued a 30-day preventive arrest order, effective on Dec. 18, for the 12 officers detained in the case, the AG’s office said.
Federal prosecutors “worked closely with authorities from Guerrero” in obtaining the order, the AG’s office said.
Last week, officials in Guerrero denied that a crackdown on the student protesters had been ordered.
“This is not an act of repression. These are incidents in which elements outside the teachers college and the government left us with this regrettable event,” Lopez Rosas told MVS radio.
A total of 24 people were arrested, of whom “only two have links to the teachers college,” Lopez Rosas said.
“The rest are people from outside the school. That’s why we think this was orchestrated by people from outside the institution,” the Guerrero AG said.
Police were initially instructed not to use their firearms, but they later had to discharge their weapons because of the escalating violence, the AG said.
Human rights groups have urged officials to take immediate action in the wake of the killings.
Guerrero Public Safety Secretary Ramon Almonte Borja should be removed from office to “ensure an exhaustive and effective investigation” of the aggression against the students, a group of Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a statement released last week.
The statement was signed by the Guerrero Network of Civilian Human Rights Groups, the Fundar Center for Research and Analysis, the Institute for Security and Democracy, or Insyde, and the National Network of Civilian Human Rights Organizations, which is made up of 75 groups from 22 states.
Several other human rights groups, including the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, signed the statement.