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  HOME | Mexico

NGO: New Digs Planned Near Former Mexican Army Base

MEXICO CITY – The Attorney General’s Office plans to resume digging at the site of a former army base in Atoyac de Alvarez, a city in the southern state of Guerrero, in an effort to find the remains of victims of Mexico’s dirty war, the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights said.

The digs will be conducted this week in compliance with a Nov. 23, 2009, ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found that the Mexican state was responsible for the disappearances of citizens, commission spokesman Sergio Leñero told Efe.

The digs will begin Tuesday and continue until Oct. 29 around the perimeter of the former army base, where the approximately 300-member Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees of Atoyac, or Afadem, suspects some of the 450 missing people may have been buried, the non-governmental organization said.

The only person recognized as missing by the Mexican government is Rosendo Radilla, whose case reached the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2003 and ended with a ruling against the Mexican state late last year.

The first search “around the perimeter of the former army base in Atoyac de Alvarez” was conducted in 2008 and ended unsuccessfully, but the AG’s office now plans to use machinery different from that employed before and expand the digging, Leñero said.

The new effort will also be aided by the presence of Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, or FAFG, specialist Edgar Telon, the commission spokesman said.

There is “skepticism” among the relatives of the missing and concern that the dig may be a media event organized by the AG’s office to provide support for a compliance report that Mexico must submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by Dec. 15, Leñero said.

“These types of digs in visible areas or places that were part of the social life of the base reduce the likelihood of making any findings of human remains,” the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights said in a statement.

“It is important to note that this observation was made several years ago by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) during its work on the first phase of digs in 2008,” the commission said.

The efforts in the Radilla case are “paradigmatic” and “strategic” because they could lead to the discovery of the remains of more missing people, commission attorney Humberto Guerrero, who will monitor the new digs, told Efe.

The AG’s office “has the obligation” to examine any human remains found at the site, Guerrero said.

If the remains found are not those of Radilla, the AG’s office must register them in a genetic database created by the government, the attorney said.

“It is a professional obligation to tie any findings to other investigations,” Guerrero said, adding that the ruling in the Radilla case “acknowledged that there was a context of systematic forced disappearances” carried out by soldiers in the mountains of Guerrero.

The discovery of any human remains will force the AG’s office to “continue with the work and expand the search area,” the attorney said.

The disappearances in Mexico occurred during a wave of repression and the “dirty war” waged by the government against political opponents from the late 1960s to the late 1970s.

The dirty war took place during the administrations of late President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and President Luis Echeverria, both members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. EFE

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