Mexico Prioritizes Identifying Falsely Reported Missing Cases, Neglecting Thousands of Genuine Disappearances

by Joshua Brown
Mexico's Missing Persons

The Mexican government has focused its efforts on identifying cases of individuals falsely reported as missing, which it perceives as attempts by political adversaries to undermine the government or instances where previously kidnapped individuals fail to inform authorities upon their return. This initiative, however, has been met with criticism due to the lack of comparable efforts to locate the true missing persons, frustrating the families of the approximately 113,000 “disappeared” in Mexico.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration has dedicated substantial time, funds, and manpower over nearly a year to scrutinize databases, checking if individuals reported missing have engaged in activities like loan applications, tax payments, voter registration, or receiving flu vaccinations. López Obrador, indicating his intent to soon publish initial findings of this verification process, has suggested that the reported increase in missing persons since his 2018 tenure — approximately 47,000 — is exaggerated to discredit his leadership.

However, the government’s apparent indifference to the plight of the genuinely missing, estimated in the tens of thousands, has been evident. This neglect extends to the failure in identifying about 50,000 unclaimed bodies in morgues and mass graves and addressing the crisis of unidentified bone fragments. Hector Flores, a father searching for his missing son since 2021, has expressed that the government’s focus seems more on reducing the missing persons count than on addressing the victims’ plight.

Flores, like many others, has been involved in volunteer search teams, conducting the risky and harrowing task of locating missing persons, a responsibility seemingly abandoned by the authorities. This situation highlights the criticism faced by López Obrador, who, despite claiming a reduction in homicides, faces scrutiny over the growing numbers of disappearances, which some critics attribute to drug cartels disposing of bodies clandestinely.

International law expert Jacobo Dayan and Adrian LeBaron, a father who lost a family member in a cartel ambush, have both accused the government of deliberately understating the actual numbers of homicides and disappearances. LeBaron’s legal complaint emphasizes this alleged systemic underreporting.

López Obrador has countered these criticisms, asserting his administration’s year-long investigation into “fake” missing cases is to correct the purported mismanagement and intentional damage to his administration. He has criticized human rights groups and even his own former director of the government’s search commission, among others, for manipulating figures.

The president’s emphasis on the newly established National Search Commission and the resulting increase in reported cases during his term has been questioned by Karla Quintana, former head of the commission. While acknowledging increased public confidence in reporting disappearances, Quintana also suggested that the president’s census initiative is primarily aimed at reducing victim counts.

The lack of official engagement in missing persons cases has led to situations where individuals, upon returning, do not prioritize informing authorities who never actively sought them. This is compounded by the fear of reprisals from criminal gangs, which also deters people from reporting missing relatives.

This neglect is further exemplified by cases like Braulio Caballero’s, a teenager who died in 2016 but remained unidentified for years due to bureaucratic inefficiency, and Delia Quiroa, an activist compelled to self-fund her search for her missing brother since 2014. The government’s inadequate funding and implementation of necessary resources, such as a genetic database, have left volunteer searchers as the primary force in discovering clandestine graves.

Victims’ families, dependent on anonymous tips and their own initiatives, often find themselves trapped between the violence of drug cartels and a government seemingly in denial about the magnitude of the issue. The perilous nature of these volunteer efforts is underscored by the murders of several searchers since 2021.

In this climate of fear and frustration, Quiroa’s resolve, like that of many others, remains undeterred, urging that her potential disappearance should not be left unresolved by the government.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mexico’s Missing Persons

What is the focus of the Mexican government’s current initiative regarding missing persons?

The Mexican government is concentrating on identifying falsely reported missing persons, which it believes are inflated by political opponents or unreported returns of kidnapped individuals.

How has the Mexican government’s approach to missing persons been received by the public?

The approach has been met with criticism and frustration, particularly from families of the genuinely missing, due to the government’s perceived neglect in actively searching for the approximately 113,000 disappeared persons in Mexico.

What claims has President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made about the missing persons count?

President López Obrador claims that the count of missing persons has been exaggerated to tarnish his administration and has committed to revealing results from a year-long verification process.

How are volunteer search teams contributing to the search for missing persons in Mexico?

In the absence of significant government effort, volunteer search teams, often comprising relatives of the missing, have taken on the dangerous task of locating missing persons and unearthing clandestine graves.

What are the criticisms faced by the Mexican government regarding its handling of disappearances and homicides?

Critics argue that the government underreports homicides and disappearances, with some suggesting that drug cartels are disposing of bodies clandestinely, contributing to the discrepancy in official figures.

How has the government’s lack of engagement in missing persons cases affected individuals and families?

Due to minimal government efforts, individuals who return often do not inform authorities, and fear of retaliation from criminal gangs deters many from reporting missing relatives, further complicating the issue.

What challenges do volunteer searchers face in their efforts to find missing persons in Mexico?

Volunteer searchers face the dual threats of violence from drug cartels and a lack of support from a government more focused on denying the scale of the problem, leading to dangerous and often unsupported search efforts.

More about Mexico’s Missing Persons

  • Mexico’s Missing Persons Crisis
  • Government Focus on False Missing Reports
  • Families’ Plight in Searching for Disappeared
  • Criticism of Mexican Government’s Approach
  • Volunteer Efforts in Finding Missing Persons
  • Underreporting of Disappearances and Homicides
  • Challenges Faced by Volunteer Search Teams

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Laura Smith December 8, 2023 - 4:29 pm

This article really opened my eyes! I had no idea the situation in Mexico was this bad, the numbers are just staggering.

Johnathan Lee December 8, 2023 - 6:10 pm

honestly, i think the government needs to step up more, these families are suffering and it seems like they’re just ignoring them,

Sara Gonzalez December 8, 2023 - 8:43 pm

The part about the volunteer search teams is just heartbreaking, they’re doing all this work and getting so little help, its not right.

Miguel Rodriguez December 9, 2023 - 3:22 am

wow, its really shocking to see how the goverment is handling this, not enough effort in finding the real missing people


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