Family demands justice after Mexican student's body identified

MEXICO CITY - The family of the first victim identified among 43 missing Mexican students lamented the dashed dreams of the aspiring teacher Sunday, calling for justice in the case that has shocked the country.

Forensic experts will conduct new tests to see if the remains match those of the other youths missing since Sept, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said, as evidence mounts they were slaughtered by a police-backed gang.

The remains identified were of Alexander Mora, from a charred bone shard found in a landfill.

Authorities had sent the badly burned remains to an Austrian medical university last month after the Guerreros Unidos cartel confessed to killing the students and incinerating their bodies in the southern state of Guerrero.

If all 43 students are confirmed dead, it would rank among the worst mass murders in a drug war that has killed more than 80,000 people and left 22,000 others missing since 2006 in Mexico.

The case has drawn international condemnation, highlighted Mexico's struggle with corruption and undermined President Enrique Pena Nieto's assurances that his security policy was bearing fruit.

'Let justice be done'

At their humble home in the village of El Pericon, Mora's family remembered him as a cheerful youth who dreamed of becoming a teacher to help his widowed father.

"He decided to go to school, because it was his dream to be trained as a teacher, but his life was taken away," his father, a farmer, told AFP.

Neighbors and fellow students have been paying visits to the tiny two-room house where the family displayed a small altar with candles, several photographs and a beach football, recalling his favourite hobby.

But locals lamented the fact that no government representative has yet to visit the impoverished mountain community of 1,800 people.

The family is waiting to receive the remains of Alexander, the youngest of eight children, for burial.

"Let justice be done because it cannot stay like this. My brother was not an animal that was killed," said his sister, Edith.

"We are poor people who live in the countryside. We will give him a funeral as is done here, honestly, poorly." Authorities say the aspiring teachers vanished after gang-linked police attacked their buses in the city of Iguala on September 26, allegedly under orders from the mayor and his wife in a night of terror that left six other people dead.

The police then delivered the young men to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who told investigators they took them in two trucks to a landfill, killed them, burned their bodies and dumped them in a river.

More forensic testing to come

"This set of remains, along with 16 others, underwent nuclear DNA extractions using a highly sensitive technique," Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told a press conference.

Only Mora came up as a match in the DNA testing, according to Murillo Karam, who said the prestigious Austrian lab would use different techniques on the other sets of remains.

Murillo Karam stressed that the identification process "reinforces the historical reconstruction" suggesting that the young people were massacred by drug hitmen.

Family spokesman Felipe de la Cruz said that, despite the information, relatives would continue searching for the 42 others.

The parents have rejected claims the students were killed, demanding that the government find them alive and leading their own searches around Guerrero.

Murillo Karam said authorities have already arrested 80 people over the deaths, including the then mayor of Iguala and his wife, and are still searching for 11 other suspects.

"We will continue this investigation to apprehend all the culprits... We cannot afford another duel like this," he added.

Pena Nieto vows reforms

The case has turned into the biggest challenge of Pena Nieto's two-year presidency.

His approval rating has plunged to around 40 per cent, the worst for a president in almost two decades.

Pena Nieto returned to Guerrero last week for the first time since the students went missing more than two months ago.

The case has put security back at the centre of Mexico's agenda, shattering Pena Nieto's attempt to move the narrative away from the drug war to his internationally acclaimed energy and economic reforms.

The Mexican leader will host the Ibero-American summit in the eastern city of Veracruz on Monday and Tuesday.

Late last month, Pena Nieto unveiled a plan to enact constitutional reforms aimed at disbanding the country's notoriously corrupt municipal forces, replacing them with state agencies.

But security experts have voiced skepticism, saying the plan should tackle corruption at the state and federal levels too.