Thursday 15 December 2011

The FEG and the high price of churros

According to a preliminary investigation, the three bodies found December 14 at the Guadalajara Students Federation (FEG) correspond to those reported missing days before. However, final proof of identity has not been corroborated.

The three bodies were found on the grounds of the FEG building at the University of Guadalajara. On Friday, December 9, four students, attending “preparatoria número 8”, a feeder school for the University of Guadalajara, went missing, as did one of their parents.

On the afternoon of December 15th the Attorney General of the State of Jalisco, Thomas Coronado Olmos, gave a press conference to report on the progress of the investigation. Coronado Olmos said an autopsy of the three bodies determined that the individuals died from stab wounds.

According to the preliminary identification, the bodies are those of three of the four high school students who went missing. The authorities still need to locate the two other individuals: one a 26 year old student; and the other the 56-year-old father, Armando Gomez.

The identification of the victims will not be official until they are recognized by their families. The prosecutor is also expected to reveal the results of DNA tests.

Coronado Olmos reported that the police have seized two vehicles: a Ford Aerostar and a ford Ka, both owned by the victims and their families. Authorities are still searching for a Toyota truck.

One theory as to a motive for the crime is that it could be an extortion case directed at the missing parent, who allegedly had a churros (fried donut) business in different parts of the metropolitan area of ​​Guadalajara.

The parent and the three students apparently went to meet members of the FEG, who were requiring the parent to pay a fee to run his churros business in areas controlled by the organization. The supposed intention was to try and talk down the FEG’s demand for higher payments.

The FEG, which was expelled from the University of Guadalajara in 1991, does not depend on the University for financial support. It continues to operate at high-schools affiliated with the University, collecting fees from businesses located around these schools, which are obligated to pay dues to the organization.

It is not surprising that the FEG could have fallen under the sway of a local "cacique", a well-connected political boss who sometimes also participates in organized crime. The use of permits for the sale of food is a well-known practice of the FEG, and corruption surrounding this practise is not unheard of. However, this practice may have now converted into outright extortion run by violent criminal gangs.

The question remains: what sort of student organization murders people as part of an extortion racket for food stalls? It appears to be an extreme response, and reflects the violent, gang-related activity that has plagued Guadalajara recently, with the Sinaloa Cartel and the ultra-violent Los Zetas fighting for turf.

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