REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- The arrest in 2004 of former police commander Miguel Nazar Haro stirred hopes that a top official would finally be held accountable for the killings and disappearances of leftist dissidents during Mexico's so-called "dirty war."
But Nazar was quickly freed by a sympathetic judge. When he died Thursday night, so did any chance that he might shed light on the events that still haunt Mexican society -- much less be punished for any role in them (link in Spanish).
"He was never judged. ... All hope is lost," Rosario Ibarra de Piedra told CNN's Spanish-language service (link in Spanish). Ibarra's son Jesus Piedra disappeared shortly after his abduction by police in 1975. A 21-year-old medical student at the time, he had joined an urban guerrilla cell in protest over the massacre of students by government security forces. (His mother is today a senator.)
Piedra is one of an estimated 500 activists who vanished while in police custody between the late 1960s and the early '80s. Nazar was accused by survivors of directing tortures and killings, and indicted in 2003 in the Piedra disappearance.
Detained briefly under house arrest, Nazar was freed by a court. Vows by prosecutors at the time to overturn the court's decision never came to anything.
Nazar, who was 87, died at his home in Mexico City of a combination of illnesses and had been depressed over the recent death of his wife, family members told Mexican media. In an interview six years ago with El Universal newspaper, he denied knowing anything about the Piedra case and was dismissive about massacres in 1968 and '71.
"There were no crimes," he said defiantly. "There was a confrontation of police against subversives and criminals."
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: In this photo from 2004, Miguel Nazar Haro, former head of Mexico's defunct Federal Security Directorate, makes his way to a jail cell after being arrested. Credit: Associated Press.