Her “makeup and hairdo, [are] impeccable, framing a pretty and mature face pulled into a furious expression. Pretty as a soap opera villain,” reads a recent profile of Pineda Villa in El Universal, a national daily. One of the current theories is that the mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, grew concerned that the students would interrupt his wife’s speech, so he sent the police to quell them. The students were trying to steal buses to take them back to campus—a common practice among members of the teachers’ union and particularly in Guerrero—when police opened fire on them in three separate incidents, took the survivors hostage and then turned them over to local gang members. Twenty-two policemen are being questioned about their criminal ties.
Nine days later, Guerrero State Attorney General Iñaky Blanco announced that several mass graves had been discovered. He said forensic specialists were working to determine the identities of the 28 remains found there. The mayor and Pineda Villa have gone into hiding. Experts are unsure if this was an act of political repression, an episode of cartel violence or a mix of both. “You have an ambiance of very intense electoral dispute,” said Oliva, referring to next year’s elections for governor and local office. “You have organized crime presence, you have subversion, presence of ancestral poverty, political class disputes,” he said. Oliva added that there had been growing tension between the revolutionary sectors of society in the region, which sought to protect the marginalized and indigenous communities, and the increasingly fragmented and violent criminal groups, which wanted to subdue and forcibly recruit youth into their ranks.
The authorities’ involvement in this case proved to be the last straw, says David Shirk, senior security adviser at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Mexico Institute. “Government authorities have just as much impunity as the criminal actors who have preoccupied our attention for the last five or ten years,” said Shirk.