The very government and security forces meant to protect Mexicans from the violence that has overwhelmed the country during its drug war played a role in the disappearance of nearly 150 people over a six-year period, with little or no investigation into the cases, Human Rights Watch announced yesterday.
The new report, entitled “Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored,” documents some 249 cases of disappearances between December 2006 and 2012, with 149 providing “compelling evidence” that state security officials were involved. The involvement is not limited to Mexico’s notoriously corrupt local police, but includes evidence of participation by members of all security branches, including the Army, federal and local police, and the oft-lauded Navy.
In more than 60 cases, the human rights group found proof of collaboration between state agents and crime syndicates. One example cited in the report was the case of 19 construction workers “arbitrarily” taken into police custody in May 2011, only to be handed over to an organized crime group. The men have not been seen since then, and Human Rights Watch postulates in cases like this security forces and crime groups work together to disappear citizens in order to extort their families.
But the 249 cases investigated in the report do not represent the entirety of Mexico’s population that has gone missing over the past six years.
This week, a senior government official placed the number of disappeared in Mexico at 27,000. Human Rights Watch, however, finds the government’s tally incomplete, reports The New York Times. “Among other problems, the list fails to distinguish how many were eventually found or how many people left by choice,” though it is a good indicator of the scale of the problem, The NY Times notes.
“President Peña Nieto has inherited one of the worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America,” said José Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch. Countries like Argentina, which is still dealing with the repercussions of the state’s role in the disappearance of citizens during its military dictatorship that ended in 1983, illustrate the long-term implications of such activity.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, President Calderón, who left office in December, attempted to fight organized crime head on, with often deadly results. An estimated 70,000 people died in Mexico since 2006.