Suspect in the 2014 abduction case of 43 Mexican college students is deported

A prime suspect in the disappearance of 43 college students has been deported to Mexico by U.S. authorities. Federal authorities said the man was caught trying to cross the border on Dec. 20 without proper documents. 

Demonstrators and relatives of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa protest outside the Mexican television network Televisa's headquarters in March 2015 in Mexico City.
Demonstrators and relatives of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa protest outside the Mexican television network Televisa’s headquarters in March 2015 in Mexico City.

Miguel Tovar/LatinContent via Getty Images

U.S. federal agents confirmed to the Associated Press Thursday that the man is Alejandro Tenescalco. Tenescalco was a police supervisor in the city of Iguala, where municipal police abducted the students from a rural teachers’ college. 

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s Interior Undersecretary and the government official leading the truth commission, has called Tenescalco “one of the main perpetrators” of the crime. 

Numerous government and independent investigations have failed to reach a single conclusive narrative about what happened to the 43 students, but it appears that local police pulled the students off several buses in Iguala that night and turned them over to a drug gang. The motive remains unclear. Their bodies have never been found, though fragments of burned bone have been matched to three of the students.

However, from the beginning of the investigation, parents questioned the military’s involvement in the killings. In August 2022, a truth commission tasked by the current government to investigate the atrocity branded the case a “state crime” involving agents of various institutions and said that military personnel bore “clear responsibility,” either directly or through negligence for the murders. 

Encinas suggested at the time that six of the students were allegedly kept alive in a warehouse for days before they were turned over to a local army commander, who then ordered for them to be killed. His comments marked the first time an official had directly connected the military to the students’ disappearance.

The 43 teaching students had commandeered buses in the southern state of Guerrero to travel to a demonstration in Mexico City before they went missing in 2014. Authorities had been closely monitoring the students from the teachers’ college at Ayotzinapa from the time they left their campus through their abduction by local police in the town of Iguala that night, a Mexican government truth commission found. A soldier who had infiltrated the school was among the abducted students, and Encinas asserted the army did not follow its own protocols and try to rescue him.

In August 2022, prosecutors announced that arrest warrants had been issued for more than 80 suspects, including 20 military personnel, 44 police officers, and 14 cartel members. They are accused of involvement in organized crime, forced disappearance, torture, homicide, and obstruction of justice, they said.

Tenescalco faces charges of kidnapping and organized crime. The Mexican government had offered a $500,000 reward for his arrest.

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