MEXICO CITY — The governor of Guerrero state announced Thursday that he's stepping aside while an investigation continues nearly a month after 43 students disappeared and six people were killed in an attack that has implicated local police and politicians in the city of Iguala.
Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero said he is putting his duties on hold and will let the state's lawmakers decide who should lead the southern Mexico state.
On Sept. 26, students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa traveled to Iguala to solicit donations, and there was a confrontation with police. Forty-three of the students have not been heard from since.
Mexico's federal attorney general said Wednesday that the mayor of Iguala had told his police force to intercept the students, fearing they would interrupt a speech his wife was giving.
Aguirre became a target of protesters anger from the start. He and Iguala's mayor are members of the same political party, the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, and Aguirre was quickly painted as tolerating a level of corruption in his state that allowed the disappearances. While he initially enjoyed backing within his party, support dissolved as the search for the students dragged on and more details implicating local government emerged.
Three students and three bystanders died from police gunfire in the Sept. 26 confrontation, prosecutors say. Later, local police allegedly turned over the 43 missing students to members of the criminal gang Guerreros Unidos.
On Thursday, Aguirre reminded his constituents that he had said earlier that if stepping aside would help resolve the situation he would do it.
"In this tragic setting, I refuse to allow the public debate to center on whether the governor stays in his position or not," Aguirre said.
Ironically, Aguirre got his first taste of the office serving as interim governor after Gov. Ruben Figueroa Alcocer left the position following the 1996 massacre of 17 farmers by police in the community of Aguas Blancas. Aguirre was elected governor in 2011 and his term was to expire in 2015.
Despite spending most of his political career as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Aguirre was elected in 2011 as the candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party.