By Mariana Gonzalez-Marquez
Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 21 (efe-epa).- Relatives of the more than 61,600 “disappeared” persons in Mexico are questioning the strategy President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is using to find their loved ones after budget cuts and changes at the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV).
The pain and sorrow are visible on the face of Edith Pedroza, wife of Juan Pablo Romero, one of the disappeared, in Chapala, Jalisco state, which ranks No. 2 among Mexico’s states for disappearances with 9,341 people officially among the missing.
“It’s been a very long road, very tough. We’ve gone to the Forensic Medical Services (Semefo), we’re going to the Guadalajara Attorney General’s Office because the municipal authorities didn’t give us any help. We went to the (State Commission on) Human Rights and they closed their doors to us right from the start,” Pedroza told EFE.
There is chaos within the CEAV, the main government entity tasked with attending to the victims, given that its chief, Mara Gomez, resigned this past week after protests by relatives and groups representing the missing, who held a sit-in on Mexico City’s main square, El Zocalo.
The demonstrators accused Gomez of freezing the funds being used to support relatives of the disappeared, lacking a National Search Plan and neglecting to renew work contracts in key areas like legal assistance.
Gomez said that the austerity announced by the president to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the commission hard, with the body in early June issuing a statement in which it warned that the measures “will paralyze operations.”
In Jalisco, the detention and later llocating of eight people in the town of Chapala a week ago revived the pain of the families who have for more than a decade have been seeking information about their missing children and spouses.
The “Guerreras Unidas: Expresate X Chapala” group told EFE that the number of disappeared persons has been increasing for the past 20 months, when Moises Anaya, the mayor of the town known for its large number of retired Americans and Canadians, took office.
At least 100 people have been kidnapped during that period and only 30 complaints have been made to the state Attorney General’s Office, according to one of the group’s leaders, Elizabeth Gutierrez, who suspects that the city police are in collusion with organized crime.
Victims’ relatives, she said, have received telephone threats not to complain.
Josefina Ojeda, the mother of Marcos Santos, who disappeared in December 2018, said that there are cases in her neighborhood where victims don’t want to report the disappearances out of fear of reprisals.
“I know about two cases, a man and a woman whose relatives to date don’t want to complain about it out of fear, because they’ve had lots of threats from the police,” she said.
After the demonstrations that occurred last week, the Jalisco AG’s office found eight people who had been kidnapped, but it downplayed the growing number of cases arguing that kidnapping in the area “is not an ongoing crime” problem.
State Attorney General Gerardo Octavio Solis said at a press conference last Tuesday that the Chapala police are under investigation for possible collusion with organized criminal groups, but he provided no further details.
The State Commission on Human Rights went to Chapala to provide legal advice and follow-up aid to the 60 families who have joined the “Guerreras Unidas: Expresate X Chapala” group.
According to the Information System on Victims of Disappearence in Jalisco, up to May 2020, of the state’s 9,341 officially missing people, 2,212 were classified as “disappeared” with their absence linked to the commission of a crime, and 7,129 were simply categorized as “not located” although no crime is suspected.
Of the total, 1,115 are women, 8,218 are men and the gender of the eight remaining was not specified.