Mexico City: A month after the disappearance of 43 male college students in southern Mexico, the case that has revealed how deep drug traffickers infiltrate all aspects of life in the country still leaves many questions unanswered.
The trainee teachers went missing after an attack by police and Guerreros Unidos cartel hitmen in the city of Iguala that also left six of their classmates dead and 25 wounded on September 26.
Friends and family say the students were on a fundraising trip and had used three public buses that they had commandeered for the journey -- a common practice in Mexico.
Authorities say the attack was ordered by Iguala`s fugitive mayor Jose Luis Abarca to prevent the students from disrupting a public event by his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda, herself considered the main operator for Guerreros Unidos in the city.All of them were studying at the Ayotzinapa Superior normal school, some 125 kilometers (80 miles) from Iguala.
Ayotzinapa is known as a social protest hub in Guerrero, one of Mexico`s poorest states and the one with the highest murder rate.
In the central courtyard of this men`s school, murals depict some of the intellectual masters revered there: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Mao Zedong and Ernesto Che Guevara.
It is within these walls that some guerrilla leaders from the 1970s were formed in Guerrero, including Lucio Cabanas and Genaro Vazquez Rojas. Most of the disappeared were first- and second-year students, with an average age of 20.The weakening of the Beltran Leyva cartel, after its "chief of chiefs" Arturo was killed in 2009, broke up the criminal group just as violence increased in Guerrero.
Several splinter groups emerged, including the Guerreros Unidos and their rivals, Los Rojos ("The Red").
The Guerreros Unidos are the biggest suppliers of opium and marijuana to the midwestern US city of Chicago, according to the authorities.
Gang leader Sidonio Casarrubias was arrested on October 17.The sister of three Beltran Leyva drug traffickers, Pineda is considered a key player for the Guerreros Unidos in Iguala.
Her husband and mayor, Abarca, was accused in 2013 of killing an agricultural leader, Arturo Hernandez Cardona.
Federal authorities admit they were aware of the complaint, but insist that the matter was in the hands of their regional counterparts.
Referred to as the city`s "imperial couple," owning a small local jewelry empire in the region known for its goldsmithing, the pair fled two days after the attack on the students.
They are now the most wanted people in Mexico, with an arrest warrant out against them accusing them of instigating the assault on the students.Many doubts surround this critical question.
According to federal authorities, Abarca ordered the attack to prevent the students from disturbing an event held by his wife as president of the local child protection institution.
Ayotzinapa`s students had previously participated in violent protests against the mayor in May and June 2013, accusing him of murdering the agricultural leader Cardona.
Guerreros Unidos leader Casarrubias explained after his arrest that he had thought the students were part of a rival criminal gang. He therefore approved armed actions "in defense" of his territory.