Crime & Justice

65 Bodies and counting as search of mass grave in Mexico continues

By Edgar Avila

Veracruz, Mexico, Nov 17 (EFE).- Activists working with Mexican authorities to excavate a mass grave in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz said Wednesday that 65 bodies and some 5,000 body fragments have been unearthed.

Though the clandestine burial ground in the coastal town of Alvarado, 64 km (40 mi) from Veracruz, was discovered in 2017, the current effort began only last year and was suspended for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of the Solecito Collective, one of the most important grassroots organizations devoted to the search for missing persons, say that they expect more bodies to be found at the site, known as El Arbolillo.

Veracruz leads Mexico’s 32 states in the number of clandestine graves detected, a reflection of the region’s status as a major battleground between warring drug cartels.

In 2016, activists with Solecito discovered what is so far the largest mass grave in Latin America. Colinas de Santa Fe, located on the outskirts of Veracruz city, contained 300 bodies and more than 22,000 fragments.

Solecito’s founder, Angeles Diaz Gaona, told Efe that she feared El Arbolillo could turn out to hold even more victims than Colinas.

“A body has 206 bones, so to get to 5,000 (bones) you must have left many parts of many people,” she said.

The initial exploration of El Arbolillo was halted in 2018 after just two months by the-then state attorney general, Jorge Winckler Ortiz, who is now a fugitive from justice.

Under pressure from Solecito and other groups, the administration of Gov. Cuitlahuac Garcia, who took office in December 2018, renewed the search for bodies.

Along with the bodies and bones, the teams at El Arbolillo have recovered personal effects of victims, including cell-phones, debit cards and identification documents.

Current state Attorney General Veronica Hernandez has visited the site regularly to oversee the work and make sure that it is carried out in strict accord with the pertinent laws and regulations.

Between Dec. 1, 2018, and June 30, 2020, authorities found 1,682 bodies in clandestine graves in Veracruz state, or more than 25 percent of the total for the entire country, according to a recent report from the National Search Commission.

Mexico’s official missing persons list includes more than 94,500 names. EFE eap/dr

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