In recent years, Mexican drug cartels have committed numerous massacres while fighting for control of smuggling routes into the U.S. This month alone, investigators have recovered at least 54 bodies from mass graves in three states in Mexico. One of the more grisly discoveries was in western Mexico, in La Barca, on the border between Michoacan and Jalisco, where police have unearthed the remains of 33 people from 19 graves. Some of the bodies are completely skeletonized, suggesting they have been dead for months.
These recent finds have caused some to describe the plight of the country’s disappeared as a national emergency and a humanitarian crisis. Julio Hernandez, a member of the government’s victim care commission, told AFP that the prosecutor’s offices in Mexico’s 31 states and the capital need more forensic experts and DNA laboratories to identify the dead. Currently, the critical factors for identifying the dead are finding the bodies in the early stages of decomposition and obtaining accurate records of the missing.
Former President Felipe Calderon escalated the war on the cartels by sending 6,700 troops into the streets in an effort to contain them. During his six year term from 2006-2012 more than 100,000 people were killed, and another 26,121 disappeared, during what is considered to be one of the “bloodiest periods in Mexico’s history since the Revolutionary War.” Victims include journalists, mayors, human rights activists, lawyers, police, and innocent bystanders. In May, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said the figure is likely lower because many of the people reported missing may have left their homes for personal reasons or emigrated. When AFP obtained official figures through a freedom of information request, it found that the attorney general’s office documented the exhumation of 847 bodies in mass graves between December 2006 and September 2011.
Police officials are confident they’ll be able to identify the individuals in the La Barca graves because they are believed to be from the area. Considering the number of people still missing, there are likely more bodies that will be unearthed in the near future.
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