Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said Tuesday that prosecutors have requested 46 warrants for the arrest of municipal officials in Guerrero in connection with the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 teaching students in September 2014.
Gertz said in a video message that the officials are sought for the crimes of forced disappearance and organized crime in relation to the kidnapping of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students on September 26, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero.
“It’s necessary to make it very clear that these crimes weren’t even investigated” let alone prosecuted by the former government’s prosecutors, he said.
The attorney general said the 46 new arrest warrants sought are in addition to warrants obtained in March against former Attorney General’s Office officials, including the ex-head of the Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomás Zerón, who has reportedly fled Mexico.
Gertz said that an Interpol red notice had been issued against Zerón, who is wanted on charges of torturing people detained in connection with the students’ disappearance, forced disappearance, evidence tampering and altering a crime scene.
The attorney general said the location of Zerón is known but didn’t disclose it. It is believed he might be in Canada but authorities are also searching for him in the United States, Guatemala, Belize and Europe.
Gertz also said that José Angel Casarrubias Salgado, the presumed leader of the Guerreros Unidos gang that allegedly abducted and killed the students, was arrested on Monday after almost six years on the run.
However, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the release of Casarrubias, also known as “El Mochomo,” due to insufficient evidence, although he could be immediately rearrested after he is set free, the newspaper El Financiero reported.
The government has previously been highly critical of the release of suspects in the Ayotzinapa case.
Gertz said Tuesday the new investigation into the students’ disappearance is making progress and declared that the former government’s “historic truth” – that the students were kidnapped by corrupt municipal police, turned over to the Guerreros Unidos, killed and burned – “is over.”
“Our investigation continues and at the end of this week we hope to be able to bring cases against other officials of varying levels as well as provide more information about the human remains that were sent to the university” in Innsbruck, Austria, he said.
In an interview with the newspaper La Jornada, Gertz explained that the “historic truth is over” because “all the elements on which it was based” have been discredited “due to the irregularity and illegality with which the case was managed.”
Independent experts found numerous flaws in the previous government’s investigation and the United Nations said in a 2018 report that 34 people arrested in connection with the crime were tortured.
Gertz said that the Attorney General’s Office is now “seeking is to restore credibility in the investigations” and find out what happened to the young men.
“That’s what the entire public and the parents of the victims really care about,” he said.
Asked whether there was evidence that not all of the students were killed and burned at the dump in the municipality of Cocula, Guerrero – as the “historic truth” claimed – Gertz said there was but declined to give further details.
“That information will be provided later. For now we’re trying to obtain arrest warrants and we’ve had to travel around the whole country because there are judges that don’t want to accept the files and we’ve had to go to other places,” he said.
Deputy Interior Minister for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas said in March that the remains of three of six bodies sent to Innsbruck were found in a ravine located on community-owned land in Cocula, while the other remains were found near the city of Iguala in an area known as Jesús de Nazaret.
But Gertz said more remains have since been found and that authorities have established a new theory about what happened to the students.
“We already know what happened, we know who ordered it, who covered it up … and [why] they did what they did,” he said.
Asked whether authorities had accepted it as fact the students were murdered, Gertz responded: “Don’t ask me to answer that until I’m certain.”
He said the theory that the students were mistaken for members of a criminal group is “absolutely” supported, adding that the entire region surrounding Iguala was affected by a drug trafficking turf war.
Asked whether the former mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa – once known as the imperial couple of the Guerrero city – were involved in the students’ disappearance, the attorney general told La Jornada that he could neither confirm it or deny it.
The ex-mayor and his wife are currently in prison but there has been speculation that they could be released.
Scores of people arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance have been released from prison including more than 20 municipal police officers.
The Ayotzinapa case is the biggest stain on the record of former president Enrique Peña Nieto, whose administration was plagued by scandals.
The disappearance of the students triggered some of the biggest protests seen in Mexico in recent years, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Peña Nieto.
But the ex-president survived the uprising and went on to complete his six-year term in 2018 before vanishing from public life.