Mexico apologizes for the death of 5 youths kidnapped by police in 2016
5 young people were abducted by police officers in 2016 - Photo: José Cabezas/REUTERS

Mexico apologizes for the death of 5 youths kidnapped by police in 2016

Mexico City
Lizbeth Diaz
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Bloody battles among increasingly splintered criminal cartels have left more than 40,000 people missing in the past two decades

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On Monday, Mexican government officials apologized to families of five youths who were murdered after police officers kidnapped them and turned them over to a brutal drug gang, which is rare in Mexico, as officials rarely admit the state’s culpability in such crimes.

Relatives said the apology is the first official recognition the four men and a woman were innocent victims and not criminals as officials initially asserted when they went missing in 2016 in the state of Veracruz, one of Mexico’s most violent.

“More than anything, we want to reclaim the good name of our kids ... and demand justice for them and for thousands of others who experience the same thing,” Columba Arroniz, a mother of one of the dead, said with tears streaming down her face.

Bloody battles among increasingly splintered cartels have left over 40,000 people missing in the past two decades, as well as around 26,000 unidentified corpses in over 1,100 mass graves, according to official information.

Cartels fight to control trafficking routes, human smuggling, extortion, and kidnapping, among other activities.

Alejandro Encinas, the deputy interior minister for human rights, acknowledged the state’s “profound responsibility” and vowed to revive investigations into the case in which eight police officers are among the 21 suspects arrested.

“We know that organized crime works with government officials at all levels,” Encinas said at the event attended by family members at Mexico City’s Museum of Memory and Tolerance.

No senior Veracruz security officials have been investigated for the enforced disappearance, something that has been criticized by the families.

“I apologize for the collusion between police and organized crime that wasn’t stopped in time,” said Cuitlahuac García, Veracruz’s governor, who took office in December 2018.

The youths were on their way home when they were stopped by local police, apparently, after they were mistakenly thought to be linked to a gang, then turned over to members of the bloody Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel. They were then murdered and their bodies incinerated, according to preliminary findings.

For years, the Veracruz government claimed they were criminals and didn't work on the case. Now the families are asking the new Governor to solve the case.

The case has echoes of the 2014 abduction and suspected massacre of 43 trainee teachers in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, in which the government admitted police were involved. To date, the remains of only one of the 43 have been definitively identified.


Enforced disappearance, Mexico's worst tragedy

Enforced disappearance became part of the official discourse as a result of the pressure that society exerted on the government and after events such as Ayotzinapa
Enforced disappearance, Mexico's worst tragedyEnforced disappearance, Mexico's worst tragedy


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