MEXICO CITY — Authorities in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz announced charges Thursday of “forced disappearance” against 19 current or former state police officials and officers, saying they kidnapped and killed 15 innocent civilians.
Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said the victims included two women and two minors, and the alleged perpetrators reached to very top of the police structure.
Veracruz has been the scene of grisly police kidnap-killings before but in the cases announced Thursday, state police officials and their subordinate officers were apparently working for gangs or drug cartels, Yunes said. The crimes occurred during the 2010-2016 administration of former Gov. Javier Duarte, who himself is in prison facing corruption charges, and his predecessor.
Yunes said the state’s former Public Safety Secretary — in effect the top police commander — and his directors of special forces, prisons and state police headed a ring that abducted, tortured, interrogated, raped and killed private citizens.
“These corrupt police, like the regime they served, placed themselves at the service of the criminals,” Yunes said. Two of the high-ranking officials were already under arrest on other charges, one is a fugitive, and the rest were placed under arrest.
Yunes did not explain why they carried out the “forced disappearances,” which is defined as the abduction of a person by public servants when the victim is subsequently never found.
But in 2015, state police in one Veracruz town abducted five youths and turned them over to the hyper-violent Jalisco cartel, who tortured and killed them. In that case, the police allegedly worked for the cartel.
On Wednesday, prosecutors in central Mexico say they arrested five municipal policemen for allegedly kidnapping a man in November. The victim has not been seen since.
The crime was the first case of “forced disappearance” that has been brought in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City.
Alejandro Gomez, the Mexico State attorney general, said the five suspects belonged to the police force in Valle de Bravo, an upscale resort town west of Mexico City.
Gomez said another man to linked to a drug gang in neighboring Michoacan state had also been arrested. Local media said the police had turned the victim over to that gang, but Gomez did not confirm that account.