Oaxaca police have arrested a mayor and two other government officials who are suspected of kidnapping British-Mexican citizen Claudia Uruchurtu.
Uruchurtu disappeared the evening of March 26 after taking part in a protest outside government headquarters in the Mixteca municipality of Asunción Nochixtlán, where Mayor Lizbeth Victoria Huerta is now in custody.
Witnesses said Uruchurtu was grabbed and pushed into a vehicle, according to Uruchurtu’s family.
The arrests come after her family lobbied the British foreign ministry, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to demand justice. The family said Uruchurtu had denounced Huerta before state authorities for embezzlement of public resources before her disappearance.
The family said they received death threats via phone calls and acts of intimidation at their homes in Oaxaca after Uruchurtu disappeared. The Oaxaca human rights commission established a security escort for the family in response, and demanded that security and justice officials not harass the family or violate their human rights.
Uruchurtu’s accusations of financial impropriety were not the first for Mayor Huerta. On September 14 of last year, the state elections council said Huerta broke the law when she used public resources to fund personal propaganda. She faced other accusations of using public funds for her personal political goals in April and May 2020.
The March 26 protest where Uruchurtu disappeared was in response to the beating and arrest of a local man, allegedly on Huerta’s orders. Alfonso Avendaño, a supplier to the Nochixtlán government, showed up at government offices asking to be paid money he was owed. The mayor allegedly ordered local police to beat the man, leaving Avendaño with a fractured skull, according to his family. A witness who filmed the beating said she was later threatened by Huerta.
The mayor is currently seeking reelection as the Morena party’s candidate after having been chosen in an internal party survey. In reference to Uruchurtu’s disappearance, Huerta claimed to be the victim of a “dirty game” aimed at quashing her political ambitions. She also said she was the victim of political gender violence and demanded authorities find Uruchurtu.
The latter’s family has called the incident the first enforced disappearance during President López Obrador’s administration and have sought the intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.