This story is over 5 years old.


Rebuked Over Missing Students Case, Mexican Attorney General Steps Down

Jesus Murillo Karam is the first high-profile exit from the cabinet of President Enrique Peña Nieto. It came the day after the five-month march since the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa Normal School students, as thousands more marched in their memory.
Screen-shot via YouTube livestream

Mexico's president on Friday removed his attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam, after months of criticism and complaints over Karam's handling of the case of 43 teachers college students who were forcibly disappeared by Mexican police.

President Enrique Peña Nieto reassigned Murillo Karam to head a little known agency for urban and agrarian development, a dizzying fall from being the country's chief law enforcement officer.


Murillo Karam is a key inside player of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and has three times been the party's secretary general.

He's served as governor of Hidalgo state, twice as a senator, and once as president of the lower house of Congress — which meant Murillo Karam placed the presidential sash on Peña Nieto when he took office on December 1, 2012.

'I am tired.'

But Murillo Karam fumbled repeatedly as attorney general.

In the days following the September 26 attacks on the group of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in the southern state of Guerrero, Murillo Karam faced criticism for moving too slowly to take over the case from state authorities.

Once the federal prosecutor took on the case, Murillo Karam faced rebuke from survivors of the attacks and parents of the missing students. Critics said the attorney general withheld information and too quickly concluded that the 43 young men were killed at the same location and at the same time.

Murillo Karam famously sparked a viral hashtag #YaMeCanse — roughly, "I am tired" or "I am fed up" — after mumbling the words at the end of a press conference in which he proclaimed the students were incinerated at a dump.

Murillo Karam later said it was a "historical truth" the students were detained by municipal police, handed over to a criminal group, and then incinerated at a dump near Cocula, Guerrero — without providing conclusive evidence.


Only one student has been identified among the charred remains that authorities say were discovered in a ravine dump. An independent group of forensics experts from Argentina later said it had significant doubts about the professionalism and trustworthiness of Murillo Karam's investigation.

Peña Nieto did not immediately name a replacement for Murillo Karam. But Mexican news outlets said the likely eventual pick would be former Senator Arely Gomez. Gomez resigned from her senate seat on Thursday in anticipation of the move.

News outlets on Friday were already pointing out that Gomez is sister to a vice president at the media conglomerate Televisa.

Related:Serious Faults Found in Mexico's Handling of Missing Students Case, Independent Team Says.

On Thursday, exactly five months since the attacks on the Ayotzinapa students, more than 2,000 people marched through the streets of Mexico City to recall the tragedy and to demand justice for the students.

Parents of the missing seemed unmoved by the cabinet shift.

"They think that announcing a new prosecutor is starting over, but it's not going to happen with that lady," parent spokesman Felipe de la Cruz told VICE News, in reference to Gomez.

Demonstrators followed parents of the missing students as they marched through the city on Thursday, carrying banners calling for the president's resignation, and shouting slogans demanding justice for the 43 young men. At least five people were arrested for carrying objects that authorities said were weapons.


Thursday's march ended just before reaching the official presidential residence, Los Pinos. There, the parents of the missing 43 stood on a platform and commemorated their children.

"In spite of the five months that have passed without our sons, without knowing anything of them, this time has helped us realize that the government has them," said Maria Concepcion, the mother of 19-year-old missing student Eduardo Ramirez.

"We haven't met with the government for a month and a half. We aren't surprised that they removed [Karam]. It's part of the government's distraction away from all the mistakes they've made," De la Cruz told VICE News on Friday.

"They didn't have a choice," he said.

Karam's exit is only the second shake-up in Peña Nieto's cabinet since he took office in December 2012, and only the first loss of a major cabinet minister and political ally for the president.

Peña Nieto is said to privilege consistency over dynamic shifts in his inner circle. At the height of buzz over a questionable property sold to his wife by a closely connected government contractor, Peña Nieto, a former governor, told one newspaper columnist: "Like in the state of Mexico, I prefer stability over change."

Related: Fatal Protest in Acapulco Shows Tensions Remain High in Troubled Guerrero, Mexico. Read more here.

Follow Melissa del Pozo on Twitter @Melissadps, and Andrea Noel @MetabolizedJunk.