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World News

Mexican president offers witness protection in missing students probe

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures as he speaks during the delivery of an investigation report with relatives of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College, marking the 6th anniversary of their disappearance, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico September 26, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s government is seeking to grant protection to suspects who collaborate in a probe into the 2014 disappearance of 43 Mexican college students, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday, after officials ordered dozens of new arrests.

The dozens of warrants for key “authors” of the crime, including military personnel and federal and municipal police, were announced on Saturday, the sixth anniversary of the kidnapping.

The still-unsolved disappearance exposed deep flaws in Mexico’s criminal justice system and sparked one of the worst crises of the prior administration.

Lopez Obrador urged those arrested to cooperate, and said the soldiers for whom arrest orders have been issued are no longer in active service.

“We are looking for those detained to be considered protected witnesses. ... We have to break the pact of silence,” he told his daily news conference. “If they collaborate, they will have considerations of legal character.”

It was not clear what type of protection would be offered, or if collaboration could be a factor in sentencing.

The students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014, in the state of Guerrero. The remains of only two of the students have been positively identified so far, while evidence of a third student was never definitively confirmed.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Raul Cortes Fernandez; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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