From January 2007 to April of this year, Mexican authorities have recorded the discovery of 5,698 clandestine graves throughout the country. It’s a staggering number, part of the figures that paint a picture of the violence in the country, more than 110,000 disappeared, 30,000 murders a year, a bloodletting that seems to have no end.
The map of the graves illuminates one of the favorite tactics of crime in these times of war against drug trafficking and organized crime: to disappear people, to hide their death and their fate. Avoiding the already decaying justice system, which handles unheard of rates of unpunished crimes.
In an investigation published this Monday, the organization Quinto Elemento Lab shows the evolution of the data, part of the records accumulated over the years by the National Search Commission, under the Ministry of the Interior. The Government manages a web page where the map of graves can be consulted. But Quinto Elemento Lab has obtained the raw data, via the law of transparency and access to information, to confirm the Government’s statistics and organize them geographically and temporally.
The registry shows that the states with the most graves in their territory are Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Guerrero. In fact, between the three of them, they account for more than half of the findings in the whole country. Veracruz leads the list with 668 clandestine burials. In 2016, for example, authorities there certified the location of 161. In 2019, there were 142. Tamaulipas follows Veracruz with 554, distributed more or less evenly between 2011 and 2022. Guerrero closes the podium with 498. The year that more graves were found in the state was 2014, in the heat of the searches for the 43 missing students of the Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa.
There is not a big gap between the top three and the next. Sinaloa and Chihuahua surpass the 400 graves barrier, while Colima and Zacatecas are close behind. In total, 18 states out of the 32 in the country register 100 clandestine graves or more in their territory. In 570 municipalities at least one grave has been found, that is, in one out of every four towns in Mexico.
Comparing the work of Quinto Elemento Lab with the map of graves of the Executive, it is easy to see the government’s intention to separate its records from those of previous governments. Thus, Mexico registered 2,835 graves from January 2007 to December 2018, a range that includes the administrations of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). In the four and a half years of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s mandate, the figure rises to 2,863.