Crime & Justice

No end in sight to Mexico’s missing-persons crisis

By Ines Amarelo

Mexico City, Aug 30 (EFE) – Mexico is commemorating International Day of the Disappeared as one of the countries where this scourge is most prevalent, with more than 100,000 officially registered missing person cases over the past 58 years.

“The situation is that there’s a serious crisis of missing persons in Mexico, that there’s a serious forensic crisis,” Alejandra Elguero, an attorney with the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, told Efe on Tuesday.

“And this has a lot to do with our country’s public safety model.”

The number of missing persons in Mexico from 1964 to the present rose to more than 100,000 in May and recently topped 103,000, according to the Government Secretariat’s (interior ministry’s) National Registry of Missing People.

The forensic crisis in Mexico, where official figures indicate that more than 52,000 human remains are still unidentified, also constitutes one of main obstacles in the search for truth and justice.

The remains of thousands of missing people have been found but then gone missing again without family members ever being aware their loved one had been located.

That was the case of Israel Hernandez, who was kidnapped in 2012. His sister, Edith, and the rest of his family had searched for him for four years before his body and 116 other corpses were found in a common grave in Tetelcingo, a town in the central Mexican state of Morelos.

“He was one of those they said no one was looking for,” said Edith, who despite having recovered her brother’s body continues to take part in search efforts and share the knowledge she has acquired with other people.

Another woman who has been searching for a daughter, Mireya Montiel, since she went missing at age 18 told Efe that it is insufficient for Mexican authorities to acknowledge the existence of a forensic crisis without taking concrete action to remedy the problem.

“They need to do something to put an end to this,” she said.

Although state AG’s offices identify the bodies, the federal AG’s office is required by law to create a forensic database yet thus far has failed to do so.

Besides failures to identify remains, many other people have vanished without a trace in Mexico.

“This figure (102,000 missing) is cumulative. It’s not something that happened all of a sudden, but most disappearances are recent, the vast majority from 2006 to the present,” Elguero said.

She added that, according to official figures, 60 percent of those currently missing are people under the age of 35.

Official data also show that six girls and women disappear every day.

According to Elguero, the situation won’t change if a militarization approach to combating drug cartels, one that dates back to 2006, continues to be employed.

In that regard, leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in late 2018, has doubled down on the strategy of his predecessors by creating a new security force – the National Guard – that began as a civilian body but will become a unit of the Defense Secretariat in the coming months.

He has increased the role of the military in civilian affairs even though a truth commission found that Mexican armed forces personnel were partly responsible for the notorious 2014 abduction of 43 Ayotzinapa teacher’s college students who had come under attack in Iguala, a city in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

In a report released on Aug. 18, that commission said there is no indication any of the missing students are alive and said the abduction was a “state crime” involving local, state and federal officials.

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