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Case of the missing student activists underscores dangerous corruption in Mexico – Part 2

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For more on all this, we turn now to Wall Street Journal Dudley Althaus in Mexico City.

    So, we have heard that there have been a number of arrests. What's the latest?

  • DUDLEY ALTHAUS, The Wall Street Journal:

    Well, latest is there have been a number of arrests in the past few days.

    They're up to about 57, according to officials. Most of them are local police from Iguala and the nearby town of Cocula. And then some local officials of the Guerreros Unidos gang.

    The latest today is the interior minister of Mexico has announced that they are still looking for the students alive. That was a demand from the parents of the students two days ago when they met with President Pena Nieto.

    Today in Iguala, there was a banner that appeared near the army base near the police headquarters saying that those students were indeed still alive and that the entire investigation has been a sham.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Human Rights Watch estimates that there have been some 20,000 disappearances over the last eight years. Why are these particular kidnappings of these students resonating across Mexico?

  • DUDLEY ALTHAUS:

    Well, I think, for one, the number, the sheer numbers.

    And, besides, these kids had a reputation for kind of troublemaking, political agitation. But they're basically innocent. They're apart from the drug war, as far as anyone knows. And the sheer number of these students disappearing. Plus, in the past few years, President Pena Nieto has been saying — been assuring the country that basically the worst of the violence is behind it and that they're basically moving on.

    He's been really trying to promote a message of economic development, investment and stability. This kind of just shook everybody up.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    We have also heard that the mayor of the town and his wife are on the run, that they may be in on this. What does this say about how difficult it is to root out the corruption that might be inside these small towns and also working with the cartels?

  • DUDLEY ALTHAUS:

    Well, really, that's the most important backstory of all of this.

    The government — and the past government as well, but the current government as well has been really trying to take down major drug lords. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa cartel — the head of the Juarez cartel was just arrested.

    But what's happened was, there is a lot of smaller gangs, smaller groups that still exist all throughout the bad areas of Mexico. And they have just been kind of lying low and really dominating local towns. It doesn't take much to dominate a small city or a small town in areas like Guerrero or even up along the border, along the U.S.-Mexican border.

    So that's been kind of ignored in the past two years. And I think this underscores the fact that these are very dangerous situations in a lot of parts of Mexico.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    As you said, this has escalated into a national situation, so what's next for the federal government? What's the Mexican president likely to do?

  • DUDLEY ALTHAUS:

    It's been five weeks now since these students disappeared. Something's got to give, or it starts working against — badly, working badly against the government.

    So, I think they're going to redouble their efforts. I think they're trying to, as far as it goes. But, I mean, you know, it's — they have 57 people in custody. It's a relatively small area, although Guerrero is a big state.

    Most of Mexico, I think, thinks it can't be that hard to find these students. So, the government has got to come up with something very quickly, or it's losing credibility every day, I think.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, The Wall Street Journal Dudley Althaus in Mexico City, thanks so much.

  • DUDLEY ALTHAUS:

    Thank you.

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