MEXICO CITY – High-level federal government officials unveiled a plan on Monday to try to find the roughly 40,000 people reported missing in Mexico, a program that will allow relatives to assist in the search and incorporates recommendations made by international organizations.
“It is estimated that there are 40,000 people missing, more than 1,100 clandestine graves and around 26,000 unidentified bodies at coroners offices, giving you an idea of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and the human rights violations we are dealing with,” Government Undersecretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas said in a press conference.
The goal is to work with relatives of the missing and non-governmental organizations to design the general guidelines and public policies for conducting searches, locating and identifying missing persons, as well as preventing, investigating and punishing those responsible for disappearances, Encinas said.
“We’re looking to develop a different focus that will allow us to deal with the task of more effectively searching the whole country, which, sadly, has become an enormous clandestine grave,” the federal official said.
Encinas said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration was working to implement the general law that deals with forced disappearances and other types of disappearances, as well as on creating the National Search System (SNB) and the National Forensic Identification Institute.
The federal official said the SNB, which should be established in March, was created by the Peña Nieto administration two weeks before the end of its term and given a budget of 468 million pesos (about $24 million) in 2018, of which only 6 million pesos (some $300,000) was spent.
A major challenge is launching the search committees in Mexico’s 32 states, Encinas said, noting that 20 of the bodies are currently without charters, four have been formed and eight are in the process of being established.
“The objective is to have all the (missing persons) registries possible in one database that will give us an idea of the magnitude of the problem, so we can deal with it more effectively,” the federal official said.
In addition to the search for missing persons, Encinas said “the priority will be to look for people who are still alive, we should act immediately to recover people linked to forced disappearances and deal with problems related to people trafficking.”
Encinas said that for victims’ relatives, “the real healing of the pain in these cases comes from the administration of justice and punishment of those responsible.”
Lopez Obrador, for his part, said he was saddened “by the suffering of the victims and they have our commitment to do everything within our means, everything humanly possible to learn the (fate of) the missing and help the families.”
The plan unveiled on Monday is the product of a series of consultations conducted by the new administration during the July-November transition with grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations and victims’ relatives.
The plan also incorporates recommendations made by foreign groups, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Red Cross and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, all of which will advise the Mexican government.