Mexico’s federal forces will take over security in 13 central and southern towns where police are suspected of ties to crime groups, authorities have said, pointing to widespread gang infiltration among law enforcement in the region.
Police and the army have already taken control of two towns, Iguala and Cocula, in the south-western state of Guerrero, and arrested a total of 36 police officers over the disappearance of 43 missing students in September.
Authorities identified irregularities in the additional local police forces, “which allow us to assume there are ties between public security officials... and members of organised crime”, the director of the National Security Commission, Monte Alejandro Rubido, said in a televised press conference.
The towns are all within a roughly 125-mile radius of Iguala, where the students from a rural teachers’ college disappeared more than three weeks ago after a confrontation with police and masked men. Twelve of the towns are in Guerrero state and one is in Mexico state. Among them are the tourist destinations of Taxco and Ixtapan de la Sal.
Federal police have assumed control of public security in the towns, the police chiefs have been sent to a special centre for “certification” and their guns are being tested, Mr Rubido said. Both the mayor and police chief of Iguala are fugitives and accused of links to the local drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. The cartel is alleged to be involved in the disappearance of the students.
Mr Rubido said that the search for the 43 students is being carried out by land, air and water with the help of relatives and the International Red Cross.