MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Despite sparking outrage by saying he had “had enough” when grilled by reporters over the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers, Mexico’s attorney general was unrepentant on Monday and said he would do it all again.
Jesus Murillo tried to cut short a news conference on Friday evening, arching his eyebrows with the aside “Ya me canse”, or “I’ve had enough”.
His words quickly went viral on social media, and protesters painted the hashtag #YaMeCanse ... de miedo (I’ve had enough ... of fear) on the gates to his office.
A group of protesters set fire to the wooden door of the ceremonial presidential palace in Mexico City’s historic city center on Saturday night, as anger over the government’s handling of the case mounts.
Asked if his phrase was unfortunate, a defiant Murillo told local television on Monday: “No. I was tired and that is the truth.”
“Naturally, I have no reason to lie, I‘m as human as the next person and I also get tired,” he said, when asked if he would say it again. “I have slept four hours a night for 30 days, and that day I had been awake for 40 hours.”
The government says corrupt police in league with a local drug gang abducted and apparently murdered the 43 trainee teachers in the southwestern state of Guerrero in late September.
President Enrique Pena Nieto took office two years ago vowing to restore order in Mexico, where about 100,000 people have died in violence linked to organized crime since 2007.
But the shocking case of the trainee teachers has upended his efforts to focus public attention away from violence and onto a raft of economic reforms he has pushed through Congress, and his attorney general’s comments have drawn fury.
As soon as Murillo defended his earlier comments on Monday, Twitter users posted new messages decrying his attitude.
“Murillo ... amid the chaos and corruption, the only thing you are doing is engendering violence” said one.
The government says it found the charred remains of dozens of bodies in a garbage dump and in a river, and that three men detained in the case admitted setting fire to the victims.
But the government does not yet have scientific evidence that the remains were of the 43 missing trainee teachers because almost all of them were so badly burned that they could not be identified even with DNA testing.
Murillo said on Monday that two pieces - a knee joint and another fragment - could possibly be identified and have been sent to a specialist forensics lab in Austria.
Pena Nieto is in Asia this week for a summit meeting and a state visit to China, further infuriating protesters and relatives of the students, who say he cares more about Mexico’s business interests than trying to deal with gang violence that has raged on for years.
Reporting by Anahi Rama and Dave Graham; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Kieran Murray