The newly installed governor of beleaguered Guerrero state has been in office just one day and he is already under a cloud.
Gov. Rogelio Ortega Martinez took the reins over the weekend of the Pacific Coast state where 43 teachers college students disappeared a month ago, and he stood next to President Enrique Peña Nieto Monday afternoon, when the two pledged to search for the missing students without rest.
But Mr. Ortega faces a scandal of his own.
A prominent citizens group has accused him of having links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an insurgency that has waged war for half a century in the Andes and has been tied repeatedly to drug trafficking.
The group, the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, says Ortega’s name turned up in a computer that was found in the jungle after the Colombian military bombed a rebel encampment across the border in Ecuador in March 2008.
The group’s head, Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez, told reporters that Ortega has maintained links to the FARC since 2002. His group first made the allegations in 2009, but announced it would hold a news conference Tuesday morning in Mexico City to offer further details.
The state legislature installed Ortega, an author and longtime sociologist at the Autonomous University of Guerrero, as governor Sunday following the resignation of Angel Aguirre Rivero, who failed to resolve the crisis of the missing students in the weeks following their disappearance in the city of Iguala.
'Going to be persistent'
President Peña Nieto made no mention of Ortega’s alleged links to the FARC in his appearance with Ortega at Los Pinos, the presidential residence.
“It is imperative . . . to learn the whereabouts of the youngsters missing from Ayotzinapa,” Peña Nieto said, referring to the teachers’ college in Guerrero state, “and to apply the law to those presumably responsible for these lamentable actions.”
Ortega said the search for the missing youth, who were rounded up by municipal police in Iguala Sept. 26 and apparently handed over to gangsters, “is my first great pledge.”
“I want to tell all of you, the little mothers, the fathers who head households, the missing boys, that we are going to be persistent,” he said.
Like his predecessor, Ortega is a member of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. According to a series of press reports Monday, his roots are in the radical left.
Ortega belonged to the National Revolutionary Civic Association in the early 1980s, which was an offshoot of an armed insurgency, radio personality and newspaper columnist Fernanda Familiar said on her website Monday.
She and other news outlets quoted the citizens’ group as saying that in 2002 Ortega asked FARC representatives in Mexico for a loan of $40,000 to help finance a campaign to become rector of his university, promising to give the group $100,000 in repayment.
Ms. Familiar said a document in possession of the Attorney General’s Office alleges that Ortega would repay the loan by “obtaining payment of a ransom of a person who had been kidnapped.”
Five Mexican students were at the FARC camp when the Colombian military dropped bombs at the site, a mile within Ecuadorean territory, on March 1, 2008, killing a senior FARC leader, Luis Edgar Devia Silva, who used the nom de guerre Raul Reyes.
Four of the Mexican students were killed. Prosecutors opened a criminal probe against the fifth, Lucia Morett, who allegedly told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that she had received explosives training at the camp. She was never prosecuted, however; family members said she is living in secrecy somewhere in Mexico.
But the investigation into documents found on Reyes’ computer turned up “recurrent” references to Ortega, Familiar wrote, involving kidnappings and extortion rackets operating out of the Guerrero university.
Ortega could not be reached to comment on the allegations.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam appeared at a press briefing in the late afternoon Monday, but also did not mention the allegations around Ortega.
Murillo Karam said authorities earlier in the day arrested four more members of the Warriors United crime group in Guerrero that is said to have operated out of Iguala, allied with fugitive Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife.
Two of the four alleged gangsters confessed to having taken part in the roundup of the students, Mr. Murillo Karam said, although he did not provide their names or further details.