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List of 1000s of missing raises doubts in Mexico

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm •  Published: December 22, 2012
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"We have no doubt that the authorities have done absolutely nothing" to solve them, she said.

Public attention to Mexico's disappeared has grown especially since 2011 when former President Felipe Calderon publicly met with members of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a human rights group led by poet Javier Sicilia. His son was allegedly killed by drug traffickers that same year.

Sicilia's movement demanded that the thousands of killed and missing should be treated as victims of the drug war, even if they were criminal suspects. Calderon's government responded that it would create a missing persons database, but authorities have not made it public so far. Calderon also ordered the creation of a special prosecutor in charge of assisting crime victims and supporting the search for the missing.

"There is nothing worse for me than having a missing relative. Not knowing where the person may be is very serious and so ... in every case that comes to us, we try to find a solution, to find the person," said Sara Herrerias, the head of Provictima, the office established by Calderon to help crime victims.

Herrerias, however, was cautious talking about the number of missing and said she could only discuss the cases that her office has dealt with.

In 14 months, she said, Provictima has handled the cases of 1,523 missing people, most of them allegedly taken by members of organized crime but with some cases also reportedly involving government authorities. Of the total number, 150 people have been located, 40 of them found dead.

Herrerias declined to talk about the possible magnitude of disappearances. "I don't like to talk when I don't have hard data," she said.

Estimates of the missing vary. The National Human Rights Commission, which operates independently from the government, has said that some 24,000 people were reported missing between 2000 and mid-2012, in addition to some 16,000 bodies that have been found but remain unidentified.

The government of President Enrique Pena, who took office Dec. 1, estimates the number of unidentified bodies at about 9,000 during Calderon's previous six-year administration.

Civic Proposal director Pilar Talavera said that although her group saw inconsistencies in the database, they decided to disclose it not only to help the public understand the scale of the violence, but also to pressure authorities to disclose official information on disappearances.

While the numbers help, what the relatives of the missing need most, of course, is to just learn what happened to their loved ones.

Since the disappearance of Rodriguez's then-23-year-old son, a dozen alleged members of the La Familia drug cartel have been arrested as suspects in his case. Rodriguez said she has interviewed four of them, who have told her that her son and the other six officers were killed and their bodies "disintegrated."

She said that so far no one has given her any clues about where her son's remains are.

"If it's true what the criminals say ... even with that, my heart asks to find Luis Angel," Rodriguez said. "For me Luis Angel is still missing."