The government of Veracruz has formally accused four high-ranking former security officials and 15 police officers of the forced disappearances of 15 people during the administration of former governor Javier Duarte.
One of the accused is the state’s former secretary of public security, or police chief, Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, who is already in prison for influence peddling, abuse of authority and illicit enrichment.
Also accused are Óscar Sánchez Tirado, a former top-level security official who is also already incarcerated for the homicide of his girlfriend’s ex-partner and former special forces commander, José López Cervantes, who is also in jail.
The Veracruz Attorney General’s office, supported by the Federal Police, also arrested the former head of the state’s elite Civil Force, Roberto González Meza, in connection with the same disappearances.
González was detained in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, earlier this week before he was transferred to Veracruz.
A total of 15 former and current state police officers have also been detained in connection with the case.
In addition, the Veracruz government declared that another former public security chief, José Nabor Nava Holguín, is a fugitive from justice and offered a reward of one million pesos (US $53,000) for information leading to his whereabouts.
Arrest warrants were issued for all 19 of the now detained former officials for their alleged involvement in an “illegal policy” of detaining alleged criminals without court orders before they were ultimately disappeared.
“This policy consisted in detecting, detaining, torturing and forcibly disappearing people allegedly linked to organized crime groups . . .” the case file said.
The 15 disappearances all allegedly occurred between April and October 2013 and women and minors were among those who were never seen again after their arrest by state police.
At a press conference yesterday, Governor Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares stressed that his administration was determined to hold accountable those responsible for the disappearances.
“I want to express to the families of the victims that we maintain our commitment to shed light on the terrible cases of disappeared people and in coordination with the families and different groups we will continue with the fight to find them,” he said.
Yunes added that Veracruz had lived through a period of 12 years of the most brutal corruption and lawlessness, referring to Duarte’s administration and that of his predecessor Fidel Herrera Beltrán. Both represented the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
“[They were] governments allied with crime that brought us insecurity, reaching the extreme of using public force to deprive human beings of their liberty and life, among them women and children,” the National Action Party governor said.
During the last four years of Duarte’s governorship, state and federal authorities initiated investigations into 145 cases of forced disappearances.
Duarte, who was in office from 2010 to 2016, is currently in custody awaiting trial on charges of embezzlement and organized crime following his extradition to Mexico from Guatemala in July.