The disappearance and likely killing of 43 student teachers in Guerrero, Mexico, in late 2014, and the sordid investigation that followed, stained the reputation of the Mexican government and cast in sharp relief the nexus between government officials and criminal elements.
Now the appointment of a new special prosecutor to the Ayotzinapa 43 case, as it has come to be called, adds a new wrinkle to the purported government-criminal relationship: Alfredo Higuera Bernal, who is taking over the government’s investigation, was reportedly an “honorary guest” at Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s wedding in 2007.
“There were few but well-known people. Some attendees were said to have recognized the former deputy attorney general for Sinaloa, Alfredo Higuera Bernal,” Mexican magazine Proceso reported in September 2007, after Guzmán’s wedding in July that year.
Proceso reported at the time that Higuera Bernal attended Guzmán’s July 2007 nuptials in the town of Angostura, a mountainous area of Durango state, in the heart of Guzmán’s cartel’s territory.
Higeura Bernal, who gained public notice when he was appointed an investigator in the Sinaloa state attorney general’s office in 1999, was announced as the Ayotzinapa 43 special prosecutor by Mexican Attorney General Arely Gómez on June 8.
Higuera Bernal denied the report, saying he did not know the people in attendance and that there was no evidence to support the claim. The following year he was named state attorney general for Sinaloa.
Guzmán wed Emma Coronel, who is his current wife and reportedly the niece of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel Villarreal, who was suspected of being a high-level member of the Sinaloa cartel before his death in a shootout with police in 2010. Other members of her family have been accused of involvement in the drug trade, as well.
Higuera Bernal is also the brother of Gilberto Higuera Bernal, who has served in various roles the Sinaloa state and federal attorney general’s offices. The brothers were born in central Sinaloa state, and analysts cited by TeleSur said their links to Guzmán have aided their rise in the government.
Gilberto Higuera Bernal served as a deputy attorney general from 2000 to 2003, during the administration of Vicente Fox.
Some have alleged that Guzmán paid off Fox to allow his 2001 jailbreak, though other reports argue that Guzmán’s breakout was in response to Fox’s election and the possible erosion of Guzmán’s political connections it could bring.
The announcement of Alfredo Higuera Bernal as the new Ayotzinapa prosecutor came alongside the release of a new government report about the crime.
The new report, according to Mexican news outlets, doesn’t offer new information and backs a version of events that has been disputed by international bodies.
After a meeting with the Mexican attorney general, families of the Ayotzinapa 43 victims said they did not trust Alfredo Higuera Bernal or the government’s new report, which admits to the “abuses of power, corruption and infiltration of criminal organizations in municipal police bodies in the northern zone of Guerrero.”