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Mexico Is Looking For 43 Missing Students

After a student protest in Iguala, Mexico, last month, dozens of young men were seen being hauled off into police vans. Then, they vanished.

One month later, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college are still missing and presumed dead. 26 have instead found other replica Van Cleef & Arpels Necklace horrors: a string of mass graves, police working for drug cartels and government officials at the helm of a dark underworld.

The hunt for the students has laid bare the brutality and lawlessness in parts of Mexico still under the grip of the cartels, despite years of Mexico's war on drugs.

Chairs with portraits of missing students are seen during a march for the 43 missing students in Mexico City, Oct. 22, 2014. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are some of the disturbing findings of the Mexican government's investigation:

The students men in their late teens and early 20s were studying to become teachers in rural Mexico at a college with a history of radical leftist activism, the BBC reported. That Van Cleef & Arpels necklace copy Friday, they went out to demonstrate against hiring discrimination and solicit funds for an upcoming protest march.

Witnesses have said that the students were in Iguala, a city in southern Mexico, when they came under fire from police.

By the end of the night, six people were left dead. The body of one student was later found with his face skinned and eyes gouged out, the New Yorker reported, "the signature of a Mexican organized crime assassination."

Some Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Necklace fake of the students escaped Iguala, but 43 of them have not been seen since that night.

When the students didn't return and relatives and sympathizers took to the streets in protest, Mexico's federal government launched an investigation.

The City's Former Mayor And His Wife Allegedly Control The Local Drug Cartel

According to the investigation, former Iguala Mayor Jos Luis Abarca Velzquez instructed municipal police to stop the student protests at all costs.

Abarca and his wife, Mara de los ngeles Pineda Villa, are the "probable masterminds" behind the crime and are on the run from arrest, according to Mexico's attorney general.

The investigation has led to allegations that Abarca and Pineda were the heads of a murderous personal fiefdom in collaboration with the local drug cartel the Guerreros Unidos.

Former Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, at a meeting in Chilpancingo, Mexico, May 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Alejandrino Gonzalez, File)

After his arrest, the head of the cartel told investigators that Pineda the daughter and sister of cartel members is the "key operator" of the criminal network in Iguala.

Despite expressions of shock by the Mexican government, local residents say officials turned a blind eye to the couple's gang connections. "Everyone knew about their presumed connections to organized crime," Alejandro Encinas, a senator from the mayor's Democratic Revolution Party, told the Associated Press. "Nobody did anything, not the federal government, not the state government, not the party leadership."

Investigators Say Police Worked As The Cartel's Hit Men

Investigators said that police delivered the 43 missing students to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, telling them that the students were members of a rival drug gang.

Guerreros Unidos hit men admitted to killing some of the students and dumping them in a pit although their bodies have not yet been identified.

In custody, Guerreros Unidos members named at least 30 local police officers they said were working directly for the cartel. "I wouldn't call these police, 'police.' I would call them hit men," Mexican federal Attorney General Jess Murillo Karam told reporters. Iguala's police chief is also on the run. Federal police officers have taken over law enforcement in Iguala, disarming the entire force.

Municipal police officers suspected of involvement in the students' disappearance are taken to waiting transport at the attorney general's organized crime unit in Mexico City, Oct. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Meanwhile, a banner demanding the policemen's release appeared in Iguala, signed by the Guerreros Unidos cartel. "Or else we will reveal the names of all the politicians who work for us. The war is just beginning," the sign threatened.

The Cartel's Control Likely Goes Far Beyond One City

The Guerreros Unidos cartel is thought to control drug routes in Guerrero state where Iguala is located and neighboring Morelos.

Federal police have taken control of more than 12 municipalities in southern Mexico after finding "presumed links to organized crime" in their police forces, Mexico National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said.

The cartel is one of several regional splinter groups from the notorious Sinaloa Cartel to emerge around 2011, according to investigative journalism group InSight Crime. Violence has exploded as the gangs battle for territory, and Guerrero had the highest murder rate in Mexico in 2013, the group said.

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