Mexico’s presidential palace was set on fire by protesters after evidence revealed that 43 students were killed by a gang with police cooperation.
The students went missing in September while they were traveling to the city of Iguala to protest lack of funding for their school and ended up hijacking four buses while planning to return home.
Police attacked the students on Sept. 26 in Iguala, and the students were not seen again. A video from the Mexican Attorney General’s office, obtained by the Fusion network, shows confessions of three members of the Guerreros Unidos gang, who say they received the students from the police, killed them and burned them in a dump.
It has been alleged that the mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, is aligned with the gang, and he and his wife have been arrested. Parents of the missing students are waiting on DNA evidence to confirm the statements made in the video.
Protests over the incident had been relatively peaceful until people began tearing down fences and burning the door Mexico’s presidential palace with Molotov cocktails. Riot police responded aggressively to the scene.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans have taken to the streets to protest the government’s handling of the case. Pena Nieto told reporters at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska where he was en route to China that the incident is unacceptable.
“It’s unacceptable that someone should try to use this tragedy to justify violence … You can’t demand justice while acting with violence.”
Pena Nieto’s trip to China has infuriated protesters and relatives of the students, who believe he cares more about Mexico’s business interests than trying to deal with the gang violence that has ravaged much of the country for years.
The trip to China has faced problems since before it began.
On Thursday night, Mexico abruptly canceled a $3.75 billion contract to build a high-speed train line that it had awarded to a Chinese-led consortium after opposition lawmakers accused the government of rigging the process.
The group led by the China Railway Construction Corp were the sole bidders for the project and lawmakers said the government had acted to help the consortium and its Mexican partners, some of which have close ties to the president and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The government denied the accusations.
Grupo Higa was one of the Mexican partners in the rail consortium and on Sunday a local news site noted that a subsidiary of the company, Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro, had built a $7 million seven-bedroom house for Pena Nieto and his family just before he became president.
The house, which features marble floors and underground parking, has never been disclosed in financial records that Pena Nieto has made public and it is in fact still owned by the Grupo Higa subsidiary, the report from Aristegui Noticias said.
However, the president’s office said in a statement on Sunday that the house was acquired in 2012 from Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro by Pena Nieto’s wife, actress Angelica Rivera, and that she spoke openly about the property last year.
Separately, China on Sunday said it believed China Railway Construction Corp had followed Mexico’s bidding rules and requirements and it hopes Chinese companies will continue to participate in Mexican infrastructure projects.
Prior to burning the door to Mexico’s presidential palace, another protest took place on Sunday. People walked more than 100 miles to Mexico City from Iguala, Guerrero, where the missing students were abducted. The protest congregated peacefully in the central Zocalo square.