Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2 slain Mexican students memorialized by friends, family and Facebook

More about the Monterrey Tech students killed when narcos and soldiers battled on campus. I can't imagine the fear in the students there who, I can imagine, seemed a bit sheltered on a university campus. Many American universities, including UT Austin, have connections and study abroad programs in Monterrey so it will be interesting to see implications of the violence now on campus. --Lauren

By Arthur Brice, CNN
A photo on a Facebook page shows them dressed in black suits, white shirts and stylish ties. They're at some sort of dinner and they look straight into the camera, their young faces full of hope and promise and that assuredness reserved for those for whom the future stretches endlessly.

That future ended Friday for Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Arredondo Verdugo, shot to death in a firefight between Mexican army soldiers and gangsters who had sought refuge on a university campus.

The two mechanical engineering graduate students at the Technological Institute of Higher Learning of Monterrey were good young men, part of the hope for Mexico's future. They were bright students who had avoided the violent drug war that has ripped Mexico apart for the past three years, a massacre that has devoured more than 16,000 of the nation's lifeblood.

Mercado, 23, and Arredondo, 24, were scholarship recipients about to graduate with degrees in manufacturing systems. They had been working late at the school library Thursday night, friends told local media, and knocked off well after midnight.

They stepped out into the night air and into a violent firefight. Mexican soldiers were chasing criminals who had fled onto the campus after firing on an army patrol, the Interior Ministry said.

Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont said Monday the students were caught in the crossfire.

Initially, authorities had identified the two dead men as drug gang members. University officials had also said Friday after the campus shooting that all students were safe.

That account changed Saturday, when Mercado's mother tried to call him after finding out about the shootout. When she couldn't reach him, she traveled to Monterrey, where she identified her son's body, said the campus rector, Rafael Rangel Sostman.

On Sunday, authorities at the highest level of the Mexican government admitted their mistake.

"The Mexican government expresses its most deeply felt condolences to the families," the Interior Ministry said in a release on its Web page.

The federal government will intensify its investigation to find out what happened, Mont said.

The school's rector blamed himself for the mix-up in identities.

"I offer a public apology and take responsibility for having given information that ended up not being correct," Rangel said. "I want to offer my most deeply felt condolences to the family of our two students and offer them our support in this difficult situation."

On Monday, Mercado was laid to rest in his native Saltillo in Coahuila state. Arredondo will be buried in Los Cabos, in the state of Baja California.

Separated in death, the two young men seemed inseparable in life.

Link the full article

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