CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Three municipal police officers in this violent Mexican border city were arrested for their alleged role in the kidnapping of four young people in late March, officials said.
The three men detained Friday are 28-year-old Eugenio De los Santos Decuesta, 27-year-old Francisco Javier Campoy Dominguez and 27-year-old Leonardo Ivan Loya Hernandez, the attorney general for the northern district of Chihuahua state, Jorge González Nicolas, told a press conference.
The municipal police, who are accused of abuse of authority, forced disappearances and vehicle theft, could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison if convicted.
The four unidentified young people, who were kidnapped on March 26 on the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, remain missing.
The mother of two of the kidnap victims confronted the mayor of this border metropolis and the governor of the surrounding state of Chihuahua earlier this week, demanding the safe return of her children.
She said the abduction was carried out by bodyguards assigned to Juarez police chief Julian Leyzaola, who was criticized for using harsh methods during his previous stint as top cop in Tijuana.
However, according to the Mexican press, the three municipal police arrested Friday were not part of Leyzaola’s security detail.
The mother of the two missing brothers – who asked that her name be withheld – confronted Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte and Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia about the case and complained of police harassment.
“I ask you Mr. Mayor and you, Mr. Governor, to help me find my sons. And that the police stop harassing me just for demanding justice,” she said.
Duarte, a former speaker of the Mexican lower house, urged the woman to have confidence in the authorities and pledged that Mayor Murguia and state Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas would look into the case.
Located just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez has become emblematic of the conflict pitting Mexico’s powerful drug cartels against each other and the security forces, which has claimed 35,000 lives since December 2006.
Despite the presence of nearly 10,000 Federal Police and army troops, more than 6,000 people have been murdered in Juarez over the last two years.
Politicians making public appearances in Juarez or Chihuahua city, the state capital, are almost invariably faced by mothers demanding justice for their slain or missing kin.
Maria de la Luz Davila, mother of two teenagers gunned down in Juarez by cartel enforcers who mistakenly attacked a party, became a national hero in February 2010 by giving Mexican President Felipe Calderon a tongue-lashing when he came to the city to meet with the victims’ families.
Another “mother courage” of Juarez, Marisol Escobedo, was fatally shot in December while protesting outside the Chihuahua governor’s office over authorities’ failure to punish the man who murdered her daughter.