Mexican officials arrest suspects in the massacre of 9 women and children

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MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities detained on Sunday various suspects involved in the massacre of nine members of a Mormon sect in northern Mexico in early November, according to the nation’s attorney general’s office.

The arrests occurred during a joint operation of members of the Mexican armed forces and intelligence agents and followed the arrest last month of another suspect living in Mexico City, the attorney general's office said in a statement, without providing more information about the identities of the suspects, their connection to the murders or the circumstances of their arrests.

In his first year in office, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has struggled to articulate a coherent strategy to combat crime and to curb the spiral of violence and the immense power of organized crime groups. The failure was highlighted by this heartbreaking incident, which rose above the usual news about bloodshed in Mexico, partly because the victims were women and children and dual US and Mexican citizens.

López Obrador took office last year and promised to remove the military from the streets in the fight against drug trafficking organizations and put an end to the war on drugs of his predecessors. Instead, he promised, he would address the roots of crime by addressing poverty through social development and investment programs, a strategy referred to as "hugs, not bullets."

On Sunday, speaking in the central square of Mexico City during a celebration of his first anniversary in office, Mr. López Obrador defended his approach.

"The federal executive has undertaken a paradigm shift in security," he said.

Highlighting the challenges it faces, at least 21 people were killed during clashes over the weekend between Mexican police and armed men in a city in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. Among the dead were four police officers, authorities said.

On Sunday, protesters marched through downtown Mexico City demanding greater security and justice for Mexicans. Mormon family members destroyed by the massacre last month participated in the event, local media reported.

"We have to work together to find a way to stop the violence," said Julian LeBarón, a relative of the victims, according to The Associated Press. "If we are not able to defend life in our country, we will never be a civilized country and much less a free country."

The López Obrador government is desperate to show progress in its investigation into the murder of Mormons: three women and six of their children who were members of a fundamentalist Mormon community that took root decades ago in northern Mexico.

The group, which was traveling in three cars, was ambushed on November 4 while driving through the state of Sonora. In the days after the attack, the authorities raised the idea that the attack could have been a case of mistaken identity and said they were exploring the possibility that it was related to a conflict between two criminal groups fighting for control of that region. from the country. .

After the massacre, President Trump declared on Twitter that it was time "for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to undertake the WAR against drug cartels and erase them from the face of the earth."

Last week, Trump said he planned designate groups of Mexican drug traffickers as terrorist organizations, suggesting that it was motivated in part by the number of US deaths attributable to their activities. Some members of the Mormon communities of northern Mexico have also pressed for designation.

Mexican officials, and, in general, the Mexican people, became angry at the announcement, and many worried that it would somehow open the door to US military incursions into Mexico.

López Obrador addressed this concern in celebrating his anniversary on Sunday, and said: "We will not accept any intervention. We are a free and sovereign country."