Mexico: Families can enter army bases to search for missing

AP News
Posted: Jan 14, 2015 8:15 PM
Mexico: Families can enter army bases to search for missing

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities say the parents of 43 missing college students can enter army bases to search for their sons, but say there is no evidence the army was involved in their disappearance last fall.

The Attorney General's Office said late Tuesday that relatives would need to make a formal request with a date and time to enter the bases. Army bases "are open to all citizens, and entrance has to be made in an orderly manner and with respect for our institutions," it said.

Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Wednesday that the military already had offered in December to let the families visit the base near where the students disappeared in the city of Iguala, allegedly at the hands of local authorities.

Osorio said he also has invited the National Human Rights Commission to visit the base.

There is an effort to tie "our army and our federal forces to the events," but the federal government "categorically rejects the meritless accusations made against our armed forces," Osorio Chong said at a news conference.

Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the families of the missing students, said Wednesday on Radio Formula that relatives intend "to look in all of the country's bases," not only in the southern state of Guerrero, where Iguala is.

On Monday, a group of parents and their supporters tried to use hijacked delivery trucks to ram open the gates of the army base in Iguala. Federal prosecutors allege the students were handed over by police to a drug gang, which apparently killed them and incinerated the bodies.

The Defense Department said in a separate statement that 11 soldiers were injured in the protest.

"About 200 people, the majority with their faces covered, tried to force their way into the military facility," the department said. "After breaking down the gate with a soft drink delivery truck, they attacked military police by tossing fireworks, bottles and rocks and discharging fire extinguishers." It said the protesters took the bottles from a beer delivery truck they also hijacked.

It said one soldier suffered a broken leg from a fireworks explosion and five state police officers and the drivers of the two hijacked trucks were also injured.

The parents said six protesters were injured, and blamed the army. "We were demanding they open the base to look for our sons and missing comrades. We were attacked by military personnel with tear gas and rocks."

The army denied soldiers used tear gas.

Prosecutors say corrupt Iguala municipal police detained the 43 students after they arrived in the city to hijack buses Sept. 26. Officers allegedly turned the students over to a local drug gang with whom they had ties. The gang allegedly took the students to a nearby town, killed them and burned the bodies.

Soldiers at the base near where they students were taken away have been criticized for not helping the students. On Tuesday, federal prosecutor Tomas Zeron said there was no evidence so far that troops played any role in the disappearances.