LATIN AMERICA

More than 24,000 people are missing in Mexico, official study shows

Real number could be much higher as so many crimes go unreported

A protest against the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala.
A protest against the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala.S. G. / EFE

Luis Guillermo Lagunes Díaz disappeared in Veracruz on June 28, 2013. María Mariscal Magaña was last seen in Apatzingán, Michoacán on December 5 of that same year. No one has seen Jalisco native José Luis Arana Aguilar since January 17, 2011. And Josué Román García’s family has been looking for him for more than five years. “He disappeared in San Fernando, Tamaulipas,” says a missing person’s sign for him.

Seventy-two percent of the missing are men and half are under 34 years old. A quarter are minors

And on top of all those are the 43 student teachers who disappeared en masse in Iguala, Guerrero state, nearly a year ago. The incident shook the entire nation but the authorities have only recovered one of the students’ bodies.

According to a Ministry of the Interior report, Mexico had 24,812 missing persons cases on its books on December 31, 2014. Most of the victims disappeared in Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Mexico, Chihuahua and Sinaloa states. Seventy-two percent of the missing are men and half are under 34 years old. A quarter of them are minors.

The government’s missing persons registry is based on reports from victims’ family members and the total number of disappeared could be higher. An official survey says 65.6 percent of crimes committed in Mexico are never reported because the victim considers the necessary formalities “a waste of time.” More than 90 percent of crimes are never solved.

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Although the specific circumstances vary, most of the victims are kidnapped by commando squads. Many of these abductions take place in the streets or in restaurants in broad daylight. A study published in the magazine Nexos says the number of missing persons cases shot up at the beginning of the drug war, during the early days of former president Felipe Calderón’s administration (2006-2012). According to the study, 11 Mexicans disappear on average every day.

On Sunday, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Mexico urged the government to pass a law to help tackle the country’s large number of missing persons cases, an initiative that could bring some measure of peace to the 24,812 families who spend each day waiting to hear from their loved ones.

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