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COCULA, Mexico – Forensic experts combed a gully in southern Mexico on Tuesday for the remains of 43 missing students, as frustration mounted among relatives of both the disappeared and the detained over the lack of answers more than a month into the investigation.
Workers in protective gear focused on a 25-by-25 foot-square area below the ridge of the municipal dump in Cocula, a town in Guerrero state where police have been arrested and linked to the Sept. 26 disappearances. But authorities have not said so far how many bodies have been found or in what condition.
Parents of the students say they were not even notified of the latest remains, discovered Monday based on the testimony of four new detainees in the case.
"We're angry and very tired," said Mario Cesar Gonzalez, father of missing Cesar Manuel Gonzalez. "We have an overwhelming sense of helplessness."
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said he has nothing concrete so far regarding the remains.
"I prefer taking more time to find the truth than rushing to put out a guess, imagination or invention," he said in a press conference Tuesday.
A parent who spoke on conditional of anonymity said the group would meet in Mexico City on Wednesday with President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Murillo Karam said Monday that two of the detained suspects were members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel who handled the disappearances of the students. The two said they received a large group of people around Sept. 26, the date the students went missing. The arrests Monday put the total at 56 detainees so far in the case, yet there is still nothing concrete on the whereabouts of the students.
Journalists taken to the latest search site by authorities saw clothing but nothing resembling remains. It appeared that some debris on the hillside had fallen from the dump above. Workers were not digging, rather working the surface for clues.
The rural teachers college students disappeared after an attack by police in nearby Iguala. Authorities say it was ordered by former Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and carried out by police working with the Guerreros Unidos cartel.
Parents of the missing students and their allies are staging increasingly angry protests in the state capital, Chilpancingo, blocking roads and taking public buildings.
"We aren't going to stop", said Manuel Martinez, a spokesman for the families.
Relatives of suspects arrested in raids in the area last week are angry as well, hanging a large banner Tuesday from the gates of the Cocula church accusing President Enrique Pena Nieto and the federal government of "a wave of arbitrary detentions of innocent citizens."
"Authorities are desperate over how incompetent they appear in solving the case," said Pedro Mujica. "So they have to justify themselves by arresting innocent people."
Mujica's cousin, Gustavo Moreno Arroyo, was detained along with several other men in Iguala on Oct. 21, and accused of drug trafficking and weapons possession. Relatives say the stocky 29-year-old farmer and soccer coach never even owned a gun.
"My son told me he had been beaten and tortured and forced to confess to something that wasn't true," said his mother, Irma Arroyo Moreno.
With the Mexican government's tardy approach to the disappearances entering its second month with no sure sign of the 43 students, patience was running out even among many of those who supported the government.
On Tuesday, hundreds of residents of Iguala, dressed in white and chanting "Iguala wants peace!" marched through the city, many bearing candles or white balloons, to protest the recent burning of the city hall by protesters aligned with the victims' families.
"We never want anyone to come and burn city hall again," said Iguala businessman Sergio Fajardo, one of the protest leaders. "Patience has run out. We can't stand the lack of action on the part of the federal government, the state government."
Some of those in the march for peace didn't see that much wrong with the administration of former mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who is now a fugitive charged with ordering the attack on the students on Sept. 26.
"He was doing good work," said Fernando Manuel, an accountant who marched in a white shirt, linking hands with other protesters. "We didn't know where he got the money, but Iguala saw benefits" from his public works projects.