More than 100,000 people are still missing in Mexico

New York

As American survivors of last week’s bloody kidnapping in Matamoros receive medical treatment, and bodies of those killed are repatriated, Mexico’s widespread epidemic of disappearances remains largely unsolved: more than 100,000 Mexican and Migrants have disappeared, with no explanation for their fate to their families. ,

The Mexican Defense Ministry said on Thursday that hundreds of security forces were heading to the border town to strengthen the region’s defenses to protect the “well-being of the citizens”, but the quick response by authorities to the kidnapping of the Americans raised concerns Is. eyebrows among Mexicans.

“The lives of foreigners in Mexico are more valuable than the lives of Mexicans themselves,” one person wrote on social media on Tuesday.

Another in a Twitter post on Wednesday expressed the hope that “the US government will help all relatives of the missing in Mexico so that the #AMLO (President Andres Manuel López Obrador) government can find them quickly as #USA citizens. ”

“The families of the disappeared (only) expected such a quick response from the Mexican authorities to report their loved ones missing,” Maureen Meyer, vice president of programs in the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA), told CNN. ,

Mexican authorities have been accused of slowness in finding the missing victims. A lack of capacity amid the high number of cases, official collusion with criminal groups or a “tendency to blame the victims…suggesting they may have been involved in some illegal activity,” Meyer, a human rights activist, reluctance Attributed to Mexico experts, added.

He added that the government’s effort to address organized crime may also disappear.

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Last year, a Mexican government report blamed the country’s own military and police for the disappearance of 43 students in 2014.

While traveling through the southwestern city of Iguala, the students were stopped by local police and federal military forces. What actually happened after that is unknown, as most of the missing students were never found. Survivors of the original group of 100 said their buses were stopped by armed police officers and soldiers who suddenly opened fire.

The country also has a forensics crisis, with more than 52,000 unidentified bodies in government custody, the mayor said, a backlog that requires cooperation from prosecutors’ offices.

Some families have taken matters into their own hands. Many have resorted to forming dozens of “search collectives” to investigate the disappearances on their own.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a 2022 report that in Mexico over the years, some 40,000 relatives of missing people have attended training sessions to search for their loved ones.

The abducted Americans were found in the state of Tamaulipas, where several criminal gangs, including the Northeast Cartel and the Gulf Cartel, battle for control across the border into the United States.

Gang violence has plagued Tamaulipas, with drugs, guns and migrant smuggling blamed by security experts for the rise in crime.

The Mexican Bay Area, which includes Tamaulipas, is the shortest route for immigrants seeking a better life in America.

But the journey is fraught with risks and according to the mayor the state has a reputation for being dangerous for migrants, who often kidnap victims. According to government data, the state has the third largest number of missing people in the country.

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In 2010, 72 migrants from Central and South America were murdered by a cartel in San Fernando, a few hours from the border with Tamaulipas. Several mass graves have also been found in the state over the years.

Human rights experts say the migrants’ plight is further threatened by US immigration policies, which leave thousands waiting on the Mexican side of the border.

The mayor said there had been at least one incident in the past of the kidnapping of migrant men from a shelter in Matamoros.

The kidnapping of the US citizens – identified as Shaheed Woodard, Zindell Brown, Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams – adds to political pressure on Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador to fulfill his administration’s promise to address the country’s missing people Could

Experts say some efforts have been made by his administration to identify the missing, but the number of missing continues to rise under Lopez Obrador’s watch. Thousands of people have gone missing every year since the beginning of his term in late 2018, according to government figures.

The president defended his record in helping the families of missing people, saying no government has gone as far as his administration. “No government has cared about missing people anymore,” he told a press conference last May.

“The whole interior ministry is dedicated to this and is looking for secret graves because it should not be forgotten that there was a war against drug trafficking in which many disappeared,” he said.

As a presidential candidate, López Obrador controversially vowed to fight Mexico’s gun-related violence epidemic by focusing on social programs that he dubbed “hugs, not bullets” – the hard-line of predecessors Suggested break from strategy. In office, López Obrador’s “embrace” rhetoric has been tempered somewhat by the rollout of a security strategy that empowers the military. Still, the murder rate remains stubbornly high.

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