A prime suspect in the disappearance of 43 college students has been deported to Mexico by US authorities. Federal authorities said the man was caught trying to cross the border without proper documents on December 20.
Demonstrators and relatives of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa protest in front of the headquarters of the Mexican television network Televisa in Mexico City in March 2015. Miguel Tovar/LatinContent via Getty Images
US federal agents confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday that the man is Alejandro Tenescalco. Tenescalco was a police warden in the town of Iguala, where the municipal police kidnapped the students at a rural teacher’s college.
Alejandro Encinas, the Mexican interior minister and government official who heads the truth commission, has called Tenescalco “one of the main perpetrators” of the crime.
Numerous state and independent inquiries have yielded no conclusive account of what happened to the 43 students, but it appears that local police took the students off several buses in Iguala that night and handed them over to a drug gang. The motive remains unclear. Their bodies have never been found, although fragments of burned bones have been attributed to three of the students.
From the beginning of the investigation, however, the parents questioned the involvement of the military in the killings. In August 2022, a truth commission commissioned by the current government to investigate the atrocity branded the case a “state crime” involving agents from various institutions, declaring that military personnel were “clearly responsible” for the killings, either directly or negligently.
Encinas suggested at the time that six of the students were allegedly kept alive in a warehouse for days before being handed over to a local army commander, who then ordered them killed. His comments marked the first time an official had directly linked the military to the students’ disappearance.
The 43 student teachers seized buses in the southern state of Guerrero to go to a demonstration in Mexico City before disappearing in 2014. Authorities had been closely monitoring the students at the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college from the moment they left their campus for their kidnapping by local police in the city of Iguala that night, a Mexican government truth commission has found. A soldier who had infiltrated the school was among the abducted students, and Encinas claimed the army failed to follow their own protocols and attempted 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 face charges of involvement in organized crime, enforced disappearances, torture, murder and obstruction of justice, they said.
Tenescalco is charged with kidnapping and organized crime. The Mexican government has offered a $500,000 reward for his arrest.