MEXICO – These are shocking and almost inconceivable figures: more than 73,200 people of whom there is no record.
That’s roughly the equivalent of the entire population of American cities like Deerfield Beach, Florida or Kalamazoo, Michigan.
In Mexico, that’s the number of people missing, according to new official data. The value of this data is enormous, officials said.
“It’s not just about having a registry, we not only want to know who we’re looking for, but to have all the information we need to do research,” said Karla Quintana, head of the National Research Commission, presenting the first public record. of this data in Mexico.
The majority of disappearances have been reported since 2006 and 40% have been recorded since December 2018, since the beginning of the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who promised to obtain answers on disappearances like those of 43 students rural academics from Ayotzinapa, which drew international attention.
Fewer missing in a pandemic?
Alejandro Encinas, Undersecretary for Human Rights, said that at least in the final months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers have decreased from levels last year.
“This means a significant decrease for the first time in crimes related to missing people,” said Encinas at a press conference. The drop is striking as other crimes such as homicides have continued to increase despite the confinement caused by the coronavirus.
In addition to the 73,200 cases of people who have not yet been found, 100,000 people have gone missing at some point and have been found later, dead or alive.
Data from the National Research Commission shows the striking number of lives in Limbo – people who have never been able to see – or bury – their loved ones while dealing with violence in Mexico.
One fifth of the missing are minors, most of them between the ages of 10 and 19.
In January, the registry counted more than 61,000 missing persons. In just a few months, more than 11,000 cases have been added to the database.
Several cases have been reported directly by relatives of missing persons on a new platform created to speed up the register and the search for those who have disappeared. The new platform was created, according to the National Research Commission, to recognize that many families “do not come to the authorities, out of fear or mistrust”.
According to Undersecretary Encinas, disappearances are also recorded following previous events in the country, including possible victims of the dirty Mexican war marked by acts of government repression, such as the massacres of Tlatelolco and ‘El Halconazo.
The registration of missing persons is a work in progress; a previous version of a register was created in 2012, but it was seldom updated and attracted criticism from experts and associations due to the lack of key data. One of these groups of experts, Data Cívica, has even created its own database to fill in the blanks, including giving names to more than 30,000 people then missing.
“There was no approved version,” said Quintana. “Then all the available documents had to be examined” to form the new official version with more and better information.
Despite attempts to standardize everything into a single database, the new registry was not without problems, mainly due to the incomplete or erroneous manner in which some prosecutors had recorded the previous data.
For example, some people were classified as missing, but it turned out that it was Mexican women who fled violent situations.
However, most of the cases concern missing persons, including children, adults, migrants and a hundred Americans who have not been found.
“This can certainly be improved,” said lawyer Sofía de Robina, of the advocacy group of Centro Prodh. “But recognizing that this is a crisis, that it continues and that there are thousands of missing faces, it is a good step.
Currently, many searches for missing persons are carried out only by families. Some excavate the countryside, often inserting a pole on the ground. If the station gives off a rotten odor, they dig in this area, hoping to discover a mass grave that could contain the remains of their loved one who has disappeared.
Contrary to the latest Mexican figures, it is estimated that around 40,000 disappeared during the Guatemalan civil war and around 30,000 Argentines were victims of enforced disappearances during the country’s dirty war, according to calculations by non-governmental organizations.
This story was originally published in Noticias Telemundo.
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