A Mexican activist who led the search for 43 missing students has been found dead, the latest episode in a string of abductions and murders allegedly involving the local government and powerful drug cartels in the south-western state of Guerrero.
The body of Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco was found behind the wheel of his taxi in the small town of Xaltianguis on Saturday night with several gunshot wounds. Authorities are treating his death as a murder. After 43 students were abducted, presumed killed, in Iguala on 26 September, 2014, Mr Jiménez Blanco led search parties in the hills, hoping to find some trace of the “desaparecidos”.
The mass abduction prompted a national outcry over the government’s poor handling of the case and the state of perpetual violence in Mexico, where organised criminal activity is protected by corrupt authorities.
According to the government’s official account, the students were abducted on orders of the mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, who was concerned that they would disrupt an event in his town. The students were then handed over by corrupt police to members of the drugs gang Guerreros Unidos. The gang is said to have murdered the students in a rubbish dump.
The top 10 most unequal developed countries in the world
However, the families of the victims have drawn attention to inconsistencies in the official account. In the wake of the mass abduction, Mr Jiménez Blanco helped organise a group called The Other Disappeared, consisting of mainly women, who would meet every Sunday to search the hills for their lost ones.
The group never found the students, but over the months discovered 129 bodies, which were handed over to the authorities.
“We have been saying from the start that this area is a cemetery,” said Mr Jiménez Blanco in an interview with the BBC.
Since The Other Disappeared began searching, more than 300 families have come forward to say they also have missing relatives.
Mr Jiménez Blanco was also a vocal leader of citizen self-defence groups in Guerrero and a sharp critic of local officials, whom he accused of hiding evidence tied to the students’ disappearance.
“Every day he would give us the energy to carry on,” said Mario Vergara, a friend.Reuse content