By FABIOLA SÁNCHEZ Associated Press
CUAUTLA, MORELOS, Mexico (October 15, 2021).— Two young volunteers dressed in long sleeves, jeans and face masks dig into the steep side of stream bank reeking of sewage that flows from a shopping center.
Neither the overpowering stench, the piles of garbage, nor the suffocating heat stops them in their desperate attempt to find the remains of one of the tens of thousands of Mexico’s disappeared.
The government’s registry of Mexico’s missing has grown more than 20% in the past year and now approaches 100,000. Activists like those searching in this central Mexican town on a recent morning and experts see little chance that the violence plaguing Mexico for more than a decade will change anytime soon.
The surge in disappearances is a reflection of the “strong deterioration” of the security situation in Mexico, said Angélica Durán-Martínez, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. She said it signals a decline in the government’s capacity to control violence, the growing power of criminal groups, and severe impunity that leads relatives and volunteers to undertake the search for those missing.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made getting to the bottom of the disappearances of 43 students from a teachers college in 2014 one of his campaign promises. But three years into his administration, despite the creation of a special commission and the support of international organizations, the infamous crime remains unresolved.
As other searchers worked at the banks of the stream bed, an anthropologist drove a steel shaft into the ground among thick vegetation and declared there was nothing buried there.
The group, which includes relatives of the disappeared, members of the government’s National Search Commission, activists and a couple of National Guard soldiers with dogs, moved on to a different spot.