Saturday, October 25, 2014

México: Update--Guerrero's Mayor José Luís Abarca, Wife, María, Become National Scandal

According to AFP, with their designer clothes and lucrative jewelry business, Mayor José Luís Abarca and his wife, María de los Angeles Pineda had risen to the pinnacle of this Mexican town, flaunting their wealth and power.
Abarca is alleged to have ordered police to attack a crowd of student protesters, setting off clashes that left six dead.
Yet, on September 26, they escaped Iguala as fugitives, leaving behind a mystery about their role in a night of police violence that stunned even Mexicans who have grown all too familiar with families and loved ones disappearing for decades.
Even more disturbing, 43 students remain missing nearly a month later, subjects of a massive manhunt and protests that have grown angrier with each passing revelation of the culture of corruption that has permeated this small provincial city in the state of Guerrero, 200 kilometers (125 miles south) of Mexico City.
Mexicans have learned that even before the students disappeared, the Mayor and his wife had an all-too-cozy relationship with drug traffickers, all the while presiding over Iguala.
Few here can explain how the kid who once sold clothing and straw hats on the street rose to become a local magnate and eventually the town's mayor.
Abarca was known to be tenacious and many looked bizarrely at his flamboyant wife, now one of the most wanted people in México.
In prison interviews, members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel described the wife as an ally who ran criminal enterprises from Iguala's city hall.
COMMENT: Who is most disappointing is suave, polished Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto who, if he was unaware of Abarca's drug connections with Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, he should have known much earlier in the game so that Abarca and María could have been arrested before they absconded.
The head of a local state children's protection charity accused Abarca of ordering the attack on the students, to prevent them from disrupting a speech by by his wife.
Traumatized and ashamed to find their town's corrupt underside exposed to the world, locals have just two words to define this "imperial couple": pride and arrogance.
María, who works at a small jewelry shop that also sells dollars to businesses, recalled Abarca treating her with contempt when she delivered a bundle of cash to him five years ago.
"What are you bringing me? Garbage?" Abarca cried when she offered bills of one, five or 10 dollars.
"He was a despot. Anything less than $100 was garbage to him," recalled Maria, who declined to give her last name.
Always impeccably dressed, the cold and haughty Pineda was considered by many to be the dominant half of the couple.
It was no secret that she had ambitions to replace her husband at the end of his mandate.
"We were scared," said a city hall employee who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely about the couple's nepotism.
Abarca's family, which remained in Iguala, gives a very different image of the mayor, who is said to own 17 properties in the city, including a major shopping center.
"He is a hardworking boy who set about meeting many challenges. He earned his money himself and was in a very good situation economically long before becoming mayor," his sister, Roselia, told AFP.
The son of modest shopkeepers, the third of five brothers, Abarca dropped out of medical school to go into business.
Abarca entered politics in 2012, "invited by people who wanted change" for Iguala and who saw him as a "stranger to dirty politics," Roselia said.
She recalled a period when her brother courted Pineda in his youth. At the time, Pineda supplied dresses sewn by her mother to the shop owned by Abarca's parents.
Roselia said she knew nothing about the accusations that Abarca was involved in the murder of an agricultural leader last year, or of his supposed links to drug traffickers.

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