Home NewsCrime AMLO is now ‘disappearing the disappeared’ (The Guardian)

AMLO is now ‘disappearing the disappeared’ (The Guardian)

by Yucatan Times
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When the Mexican government announced it would review the official register of “disappeared” people, it was presented as an effort to eliminate false entries. But with little transparency over how it was being done, activists suspected a ploy to reduce the number ahead of the 2024 election.

The government has now announced it was able to confirm just 12,377 of the more than 113,000 cases of disappeared people.

Another 16,681 were located, either alive or through death certificates, but in roughly two-thirds of the cases, there wasn’t enough information to either identify or start looking for them, leaving it unclear whether they remained missing.

The registry had become intensely politicized, with the rising number of disappeared a symbol of the continuing insecurity across the country, while the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said that it was being inflated to attack the government.

Related: As Mexico’s epidemic of violence rages on, authorities seem powerless to stop it

But investigators say the political fixation on the number – which could just as easily be an underestimate of the true figure as an overestimate – is misplaced when the real issue is impunity.

“What we need to know is how and why people are disappearing – and what is being done to find them,” said Carlos Pérez Ricart, a political scientist in Mexico City.

Violence in Mexico soared with the launch of the militarized “war on drugs” in 2006, and it has remained stubbornly high throughout the term of López Obrador, popularly known as Amlo, which began in 2018.

That same year, the National Search Commission was established to look for disappeared people, working with local commissions and prosecutor’s offices in each state, and regularly publishing the accumulating number of cases in its registry.

Amlo promised a change in security strategy but has failed to deliver improvements, and the ever-climbing number of disappeared – along with the number of homicides, which in 2022 topped 30,000 for the fifth year in a row – have been a frequent line of attack on his government.

“This term has been the most violent in history,” said Xóchitl Gálvez, presidential candidate for the opposition coalition, earlier this month. “In these five years, 47,000 people have disappeared. That is the truth – these are the government’s numbers.”

In June, Amlo announced a “census” to review the official total of disappearances, case by case.

Karla Quintana, who had led the National Search Commission since 2019, resigned shortly after that announcement. “Their intention is very clear and it is regrettable: it is to reduce the number of disappeared people, mainly during this government,” said Quintana soon afterward.

Quintana was replaced by Teresa Guadalupe Reyes Sahagún, who before that had been the general director of the National Institute for Adult Education.

The UN’s human rights office in Mexico criticized the process by which Reyes was appointed, citing a lack of consultation, transparency, and scrutiny.

“I think the National Search Commission had important support from the government in the first few years,” said Pérez Ricart. “And now the impression is that the commission is at the service of the president.”

Little information was made public about the methodology with which the commission was updating the registry.


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