The former mayor of the city of Iguala in southwestern Mexico has been charged with last year’s kidnapping of 43 students who are feared to have been killed, a top security official said on Tuesday.
The charges come amid intense pressure on Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to take action in the case. He faces the deepest crisis of his administration over the government’s handling of the investigation, and anger over the case spurred sometimes violent demonstrations around the country late last year. In the U.S., activists called on President Barack Obama to withdraw support for Peña Nieto and criticized him for not broaching the issue publicly during Peña Nieto's recent visit to the White House.
Tomas Zeron, director of criminal investigations at Mexico’s federal attorney general's office, said that prosecutors had obtained an arrest warrant for former Mayor José Luis Abarca and 44 others on charges of kidnapping the 43 students.
Zeron did not specify when the warrant was obtained, but it appeared to be the first charges filed against Abarca that are directly related to the students’ disappearance. Mexican authorities have said since October that the mayor and his wife were the masterminds of the kidnappings.
Zeron spoke to reporters after meeting with family members of the missing students.
The students were allegedly abducted on the night of Sept. 26 by police working with a local drug gang in Iguala. Abarca and his wife, María de los Angeles Pineda, were captured by federal police in Mexico City in November. Abarca was already facing charges of links to organized crime as well as kidnapping and murder charges related to cases separate from that of the 43 students. On Monday, the federal courts authority said a judge had ruled that Abarca's wife will stand trial for links to organized crime.
Al Jazeera and Reuters