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Mexico arrests army general linked to disappearance of 43 students

By Oscar López


Mexican authorities arrested a general for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of 43 students in 2014, authorities said Thursday, the latest in a recent string of developments in a high-profile case that has become a deep wound in the national psyche.


Gen. José Rodríguez Pérez, who was a colonel in the city of Iguala on the night the students were abducted in 2014, was arrested along with two other members of the military, the deputy security minister, Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, said in a news conference.


“Four arrest warrants have been issued against members of the Mexican army,” Mejía said. “There are three people arrested, among them the commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion when the events took place in Iguala in September 2014.”


Mejía did not provide additional information on Rodríguez’s arrest, and did not specifically name him or the other two military personnel arrested. But recent comments from the country’s top human rights official make clear that he was referring to the former colonel, who is the highest-ranking military officer to be arrested in the case so far.


“Allegedly, six of the 43 disappeared students were held for several days and alive in what they call ‘the old warehouse,’ and from there were turned over to the colonel,” Alejandro Encinas, the Mexican undersecretary for human rights, said at a news conference last month. “Allegedly, six of the students were kept alive for up to four days after the events and were killed and disappeared on orders of the colonel, allegedly the then-Col. José Rodríguez Pérez.”


Rodríguez’s arrest comes less than a month after the former attorney general on the case, who is accused of leading an elaborate cover-up of the likely massacre, was taken into custody outside his home in Mexico City, in the highest-profile arrest in the case to date. At the time, the Mexican attorney general’s office said that authorities had issued more than 80 arrest warrants related to the disappearances, including for military officers.


The night the students disappeared in September 2014, they were in the process of commandeering buses to carry their peers to a demonstration in Mexico City, a tradition at their college and one that was mostly tolerated by authorities and bus companies.


But their stunt quickly devolved into a chaotic night of terror and violence that involved law enforcement and other gunmen, who forced them off the vehicles, shot some of them and took the rest away. After that, little is known about what happened.


By daybreak, six people were dead in the city of Iguala, dozens were wounded and the 43 students had vanished. The remains of only three students have been identified.

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