Missing persons: The search against the clock

Despite the declarations of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of prioritizing the search of missing and disappeared persons, insufficient economic resources and lack of political determination reduce the effectiveness of local search commissions

Missing persons: The search against the clock
People attach flowers to a mural showing the faces of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students – Photo: Bernardo Montoya/REUTERS
English 20/07/2019 13:33 Alexis Ortiz Mexico City Actualizada 13:36
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Without economic, material and human resources, and even in some cases without someone in charge, 19 local search commissions have started a titanic work against the clock: finding more than 37,000 missing persons.

These agencies were born when the General Law in Regards to Missing Persons came into effect in 2018; nonetheless, they are still not constituted in the 32 entities of the country, and those that exist have only found 291 persons out of the 1,047 they have looked from since their creation.

That number represents a 27% of effectiveness for local commissions, which perform part of their work when they receive search requests from any person.

These data were obtained by EL UNIVERSAL through the requests of transparency, although three entities – Colima, Guerrero, and Tlaxcala – said that they have no search requests registered because the local commissions were recently created. In addition, other four states – the State of Mexico, Campeche, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco – did not provide information.

There are significant differences between the 11 local commissions that have started to work. For instance, in Veracruz, there are 532 search requests, but only 31 persons have been found.

San Luis Potosí is another state that has found difficulties, since there is a total of 161 search requests and 49% of victims have yet to be found.

Additionally, in the same entity at least 17 search requests were registered which have not been solved since August 2018.

Contrary to these states, there are others that register better advances. In Coahuila, for example, the local commission claims to have received 54 search requests and to have found 94% of the victims.

While in Nuevo León 39 search requests were generated and 37 persons were found.

Even though the entities provided this information, only Baja California and Veracruz specified if the victims were found alive.

In Veracruz, out of the 31 persons who were found, 29 were alive, and in Baja California, eight out of 11 missing persons were found dead.


The obstacles
On March 24, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador headed the resettlement of the National Search System in the National Palace.

“We devote everything that is needed, the State will be engaged in the search of the missing ones. Not only is it an affair of a commission already created, but it is also a responsibility of the government. That is the commitment, for the resources to be enough, there is no limit on the budget, no financial roof,” exclaimed the President that day.

It is not a minor issue; according to the National Register of Information on Missing and Disappeared People, there is not a single state that has not registered a disappearance.

In Tamaulipas, where more than 6,000 victims are registered, the situation is more critical; nevertheless, the State of Mexico, Jalisco and Sinaloa also present alarming numbers, with more than 3,000 cases each.

Against this background, Grace Fernández, leader of the association “Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México” (FUNDEM), deplores that local search commissions do not have the budget to proceed as indicated the Head of the Executive Branch.

“The lack of money, tools, and staff is constant in all the commissions. Some suffer it more than others, but in the end, there is not a single one that has all it needs to find the victims.”

The lack of funding is not the only obstacle these agencies have faced: the absence of political determination to make them work is common.

This opinion is shared by civil associations and by members of the National Citizen Council of the National Search System this outlet contacted.

Humberto Guerrero Rosales, from the organization “Funda” and the National Citizen Council, warned that until now 22 entities have already shown advances in the formation of their local search commission, although not all of them are working

“There are three challenges in the creation of the commissions, the first is related to the lack of political determination of the authorities to consider the disappearances a priority, especially because some states avoid to express the issue and to acknowledge they are suffering it,” considered Humberto Guerrero.

He also expressed that until now more work in conjunction between the three levels of the government is needed: “[The collaboration] many times depends on the good relationship between the federal, state and local government. However, that lack of coordination, that uneven walk, can be addressed as long as the federation and the President continue prioritizing the issue.”



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