Mexico Begins Search for 26,000 Missing People

By Victoria Kim 05/28/13

The country launches a task force to seek out those who have disappeared in the drug war.

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Mourning the missing Photo via

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has created an investigative task force to search for thousands of missing people, many seized by drug traffickers or state security forces during previous president Felipe Calderon's six-year term. Prior to this announcement, families of the missing had little support from authorities, left to their own devices as they searched for vanished relatives. "Having suffered the terrible drama of losing a loved one, families had to suffer the search…the terrible challenge of the bureaucratic maze," says Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam. "Today we want to destroy that bureaucratic maze." Currently, the estimated number of missing people is at 26,121, but experts say the list has been flawed from the start. Calderon's administration did little to address the growing number of the "disappeared" during his government's crackdown on drug cartels, which has left an estimated 63,000 dead to drug war-related violence. Due to the government's inattention, many people who left home by choice—migrating to the United States or leaving home after family disputes—were lumped onto the list with those forcibly taken away, inflating the number. Once the cases are better documented, the number of missing people will be "substantially fewer", says Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. But some are skeptical of the government's announcement. "You can't just search for these people. You also have to investigate what happened to them and who took them against their will, and bring those people to justice," says Nik Steinberg, researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of a major report on the disappeared that was released this year. "We have seen no indication that they are working on the investigative part."

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