LATIN AMERICA

Mexico City authorities under fire over disappeared disco kids

Investigators’ confusing statements unease Mexicans who fear for their safety

Pablo de Llano
Mexico City - 06 Jun 2013 - 18:16
Families of the missing 12 youths hold a protest on Sunday in front of the Mexico City’s government building.
Families of the missing 12 youths hold a protest on Sunday in front of the Mexico City’s government building.Mario Guzmán (EFE)

It is one of the biggest mysteries facing Mexico City investigators and it comes at a time when an entire country is demanding the government do more to find around 26,000 people who have been reported missing over a six-year period.

Authorities in the Mexican capital have been trying to determine the truth of reports regarding the abduction of a dozen young people by masked gunmen as they left a disco, as one of their friends has attested. But having met several times with investigators to report what he saw, that witness has now also vanished and authorities cannot find him.

“Maybe they were all taken by aliens,” posited the grandmother of one of the disappeared.

No one has seen or heard from the group of 12 friends since they entered the After Heavens disco on May 26 — as a surveillance camera shows. The case, which has captivated the entire country, demonstrates the growing concerns among Mexicans about their personal safety while also raising questions about the effectiveness of the authorities working to find missing persons.

And Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera has found himself in the eye of the storm after he and investigators have given a barrage of confusing and contradictory statements in the case. Up until Wednesday, prosecutors in the capital had been unable to determine whether or not there had in fact been a group of 12 friends who disappeared outside After Heavens, but one of the investigators confirmed the fact shortly after 10pm.

Just hours earlier, Mayor Mancera had assured the public that there was “neither scientific nor eyewitness testimony” that pointed to any abductions.

Along those lines, police said they had seen a surveillance video that shows the large group of friends entering After Heavens in the fashionable Zona Rosa district, but have not publicly said whether any recording shows them leaving the night spot.

Because so much time passed before the city acknowledged that it had a missing persons’ case on its hands, many began to believe that the entire episode was fabricated by residents of the Tepito neighborhood — a high-crime ward where the majority of the victims live. “They say that this is a trick, but we are suffering,” Jair Ramírez told EL PAÍS. “I would like to invite people over so that they can see our great performance.” Ramírez is a cousin of Jerzy Ortiz, a minor who is among those who disappeared that night.

The witness who told police what happened that evening identified himself with a false name, says prosecutor Rodolfo Ríos. He said he was able to escape through the roof when he saw the masked gunmen rounding up his friends.

Police also cannot find the owner of the disco, Ernesto Espinoza Lobo, known as “Polo,” but a local newspaper reported that he fled to Miami or Central America the day the youths vanished. The only people police have in custody for questioning — nine days after the incident — are the head bouncer, the club owner’s girlfriend and a waiter.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has committed his administration to searching for the 26,000 people who reportedly went missing during his predecessor’s term. A new special missing person’s unit was announced last week, but still lacks a chief investigator and a budget.

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