The governor of Guerrero, the Mexican state where 43 students vanished last month in the city of Iguala, has said he is stepping aside from his position, in a move he hoped would help the investigation into the disappearances.
“I have decided to take my leave from the state parliament,” Angel Aguirre told a news conference on Thursday, saying he hoped his decision would create a “political climate which allows attention to these matters and their solution”.
Family and loved ones of the missing students, who went missing after confrontations with police, had repeatedly called for Aguirre to leave in the wake of the scandal which has triggered nationwide and international outrage.
“In this tragic setting, I refuse to allow the public debate to centre on whether the governor stays in his position or not,” Aguirre said.
Authorities have searched in vain for any trace of the trainee teachers who disappeared on September 26.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands marched through Mexico City and other cities in protests over the disappearance of the students and the failure to find them.
Officials have ordered the arrest of Jose Luis Abarca, the mayor of Iguala , his wife and an aide, alleging they masterminded the attack which left six students dead and the 43 missing.
Abarca is accused of giving police the order to confront the students, who were known for frequent protests, so that they would not derail a public event being held by his wife.
Aguirre did not specify how long he planned to take leave from his post, stating only that the regional parliament should choose an individual who “must lead this effort in the coming months”.
The next elections for Guerrero state are scheduled for June 2015, meaning Aguirre could theoretically not return to office.
Authorities say local officials and police worked closely with the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel in the attack, which could prove to be one of the worst slaughters in Mexico’s bloody eight-year drug war.
Earlier this month, authorities found several mass graves in Iguala but say 28 sets of remains examined so far do not correspond to the students.