Update October 22, 2014 9:47pm ET: In a press conference, Mexico Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam links the disappeared students to Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez and his wife Maria de los Angeles Abarca Velazquez. This is a developing story.
When news broke in Mexico about the 43 missing college students in the municipality of Iguala, Governor Angel Aguirre got a phone call from a high-ranking administration office. “Your head is on the line here,” the voice on the other end of the line warned. The governor was then instructed to apprehend the Iguala police chief and keep a close eye on the mayor. “I have it under control,” Gov Aguirre replied.
That's before they skipped town. Mayor Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez and Police Chief Felipe Flores Velazquez are now nowhere to be found. The federal government has now taken over administration of the municipality; 26 local cops have been arrested along with four alleged members of the criminal organization Guerreros Unidos. The families of the victims eagerly await the DNA test results of the bodies found in mass graves.
The initial federal probes, which I have been able to access, point to the mayor’s wife for allegedly playing a major role in the criminal case. According to high-ranking officials, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, now dubbed by the media as "Lady Iguala," was the one who ran the town — the true power behind her husband's political office. Before becoming a fugitive, Pineda was the president of the municipal DIF, a government social welfare institution.
The night of the fatal confrontation between the college students and police, the mayor was reportedly at party organized by his wife to increase her profile for an eventual run at the mayor's office herself.
The investigation documents currently identify Lady Iguala as the prime suspect behind the ordered execution of the students.
According to a report from Mexican intelligence (CISEN) that was recently published by El Universal, Ms. Pineda, her late brothers and her mother are presumably connected with Guerreros Unidos, the Beltran-Leyva cartel cell whose captured members have confessed to killing 17 of the students.
Pineda’s political grasp seems to extend beyond the municipality. The official intel also indicates she is a very close friend of Gov. Aguirre.
The case of the missing students could prove to be a Mexican House of Cards involving narcos and politicians. The case has even eclipsed the recent capture of two mayor drug lords; Hector Beltran-Leyva and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.
Federal authorities now have an immediate and arduous task ahead: confirming if the students are dead or alive, while simultaneously hunting down the mayor, his wife, the chief of police and the head of the Guerreros Unidos gang.
Carlos Loret de Mola is an award winning Mexican journalist and popular news anchor of Televisa’s “Primero Noticias.” He has served as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Syria and Libya and writes for a number of news outlets on issues ranging from the drug war to international politics. Carlos has broken many influential stories about the operations that led to the capture of some of Mexico’s most wanted criminals. In 2001 he wrote the book "The Deal. Mexican economy trapped by drug trafficking." He is a frustrated chef, runner and guitar troubadour… but he keeps trying.