Municipal police officers are back patrolling the streets of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, just over six months after the entire force was removed from duty on suspicion of being involved in the disappearance of seven people at the end of last year.
But more than half will be unarmed after failing to pass evaluation tests.
Of 125 officers who make up the force, 112 returned to duties last weekend while 12 remain under investigation in connection with the cases of enforced disappearance, which led an Amnesty International researcher to conclude that no one is safe in Chilpancingo.
One other officer has been charged and remains in custody awaiting trial.
State authorities said 77 of the 112 officers haven’t passed control and confidence tests and as a result will only carry out limited duties such as guarding public buildings, and they will be unarmed.
That leaves just 35 officers — or less than a third of the force — who are armed and carrying out full policing duties in the capital of one of Mexico’s most violent states.
State security spokesman Roberto Álvarez Heredia justified the return of the uncertified police officers to the streets of Chilpancingo by saying that “there is a pressing urgency for security in the capital.”
He added that the 77 unqualified officers “will be gradually certified in the coming weeks.”
The president of the Chilpancingo branch of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce (Canaco), however, said that the return of the previously suspended police raises a series of questions.
“Why did they keep the officers locked up for six months and not certify all of them? Why haven’t the 12 [officers] who are still under investigation been accused of any crime?” Víctor Ortega Corona asked.
The Canaco president, who was one of the first people to publicly condemn the police’s alleged involvement in the enforced disappearances, added that the return of the municipal force didn’t provide public security confidence or certainty for residents of the state capital.
“We understand that these 112 [officers] were exonerated of [involvement in] the disappearances but that doesn’t mean that they’re trustworthy. The unarmed police will do little to combat crime in Chilpancingo,” Ortega Corona said.
On January 4, a deployment of 330 soldiers and state and federal police assumed policing and security operations in the Guerrero capital.
The day before, black plastic bags containing the remains of Jorge Arturo Vázquez Campos, 30, and Marco Catalán Cabrera, 34, were found in an abandoned lot on the outskirts of Chilpancingo.
The two men had been arrested in the early hours of December 31 while attending a Christmas fair where they were allegedly involved in a brawl.
After a bond was paid by a third man who had also been arrested and has only been identified as Milton, Vázquez and Catalán were released from police custody but upon leaving the police station, Milton and a police officer forced the two men into a car in which armed men were traveling.
The sole officer who remains in custody, identified only as Nicolás “N,” is the same policeman who allegedly colluded with Milton.
According to the state Attorney General’s office, a municipal police commander witnessed the abduction but didn’t react in any way. The two men are believed to have been killed the same day.
On December 29, another man, Efraín Patrón Ramos, also disappeared after being arrested by municipal police.
Two days before, a 20-year old man and two teenagers were arrested by municipal police after allegedly committing a robbery.
The trio were subsequently taken to Acapulco where, according to Amnesty International, they were tortured for a period of seven days and both Chilpancingo municipal police and state investigative police were complicit in the events.
The three young men appeared back in Chilpancingo on January 3 alive but with “clear signs of torture and bound with tape all over their bodies and eyes.”
The first alleged kidnapping victim at the hands of Chilpancingo municipal police was Abel Aguilar García, who disappeared on December 23 while on his way to work.
Source: El Universal (sp)