The former mayor was accused of kidnapping because of the missing Mexican students

Mexico’s president has confirmed that kidnapping charges have been dropped against the former mayor of a southern Mexican city where 43 students were kidnapped and disappeared in 2014.

MEXICO CITY — The former mayor of a southern Mexican city where 43 students were kidnapped and disappeared in 2014 has been acquitted of kidnapping charges, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed Wednesday.

José Luis Abarca, who remains in prison for other crimes, was considered one of the key figures in the September 26, 2014 disappearance of the students in Iguala.

Students from the rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa hijacked buses – a common way for students from poor schools to get around – and were in Iguala that day. Iguala Municipal Police were among the first to stop the buses and drop off the students. More than eight years later, only small bone fragments of three of the students were found and identified.

The investigation is riddled with flaws, and the courts have thrown out cases against other possible suspects. Some charges did not comply because the evidence was obtained through torture.

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Although the motive remains unclear, investigators have shown the involvement of local, state and federal authorities, including the military, as well as members of the Guerreros Unidos organized crime gang. The theory that Abarca ordered his abduction for political reasons was dismissed; A leading hypothesis at the moment is that the murders are somehow connected to the heroin trade in the area.

In addition to being acquitted of kidnapping, Abarca was cleared of organized crime charges this month because prosecutors failed to prove he belonged to Guerreros Unidos. But a judge sentenced Abarca to 92 years in prison for several unrelated aggravated kidnappings that happened a year earlier.

Even though Abarca is no longer accused of abducting the students, López Obrador said on Wednesday that the court’s decision would not affect efforts for justice. “We will continue to investigate and we will not fail to keep our promise” to get to the truth, he said.

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