MEXICO CITY – The official figure of 37,485 missing people in Mexico is just the tip of the iceberg of the rise in violence and insecurity in the last few years.
“The number of missing people is surely much larger, but we have to use the official figures,” Government Secretary Alfonso Navarrete said.
A clear indication of the rise in violence in Mexico is the large number of bodies that have been piling up in morgues and even in refrigerated trucks, as coroners’ offices are filled beyond capacity.
In September, the discovery of two refrigerated trucks containing more than 300 bodies in the western city of Guadalajara exposed the extent of the problem.
The then-chief medical examiner for Jalisco state, Luis Octavio Cotero, told EFE after he was fired that the capacity of the institution’s mortuary refrigerators is 72 bodies “but they have 144 because it is necessary to force the capacity a bit.”
On Tuesday, Jalisco state authorities found 16 bodies in two clandestine graves in Tonala, which is in addition to the 67 bodies found since June in 10 clandestine graves located in the Guadalajara suburbs of Tlajomulco, Tlaquepaque, El Salto and Juanacatlan.
Because of authorities’ lack of results in finding missing people and identifying bodies, various groups in states including Veracruz, Sinaloa, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Morelos, Guerrero and Michoacan have taken it upon themselves to carry out their own searches and investigations.
One of those groups is Colectivo Solecito, created by mothers and other family members of missing people, which has found numerous clandestine graves, including one containing some 300 bodies.
Earlier this week, the president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, traveled from the United States to participate in a Mass at that grave to thank Colectivo Solecito for their continued efforts to confront disappearances in Mexico.
The man designated as deputy secretary for human rights in the incoming administration of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador proposed the creation of a national forensic service to address the issue.
“The federal government was very slow in establishing the National System for the Search of Missing People, which was put in place nearly a year after the law was passed. A whole year was lost and as a result less than 1 percent of the bodies found have been identified,” Alejandro Encinas said.
Ever since Felipe Calderon launched a full-on war against drug trafficking organizations during his 2006-2012 term as president, the number of missing people, including victims of forced disappearances, has sharply increased in Mexico.