Crime and Violence

21 alleged human remains found in Ecatepec’s Grand Canal in Edomex

Photo: Justice in Mexico.
Photo: Justice in Mexico.

10/18/14 (written by ashoffner) — An investigation is underway to determine the story behind what is believed to be the skeletal remains of at least 21 bodies that were pulled from a canal outside of Mexico City. The Grand Canal in Ecatepec, State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) was drained between June 1 and September 30 following a judge’s order as part of an unrelated case. As the canal drained, authorities discovered the presumed bodies. According to Edomex Deputy Octavio Martínez Vargas, who has been the most vocal actor in bringing this case to national attention, the remains are of 16 women and five men, though authorities have not yet confirmed this information.

This story picked up attention when Congressman Martínez of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) went public with the discovery, posting a publication on his Facebook page on October 12 that read, “16 bodies of women are found dead in the Ecatepec canal… The parents of the missing young women demand that the government finds those responsible. It is unbelievable that not one media outlet in our country has commented on the tragic events. I demand that the attorney general of Edomex [Alejando Jaime Gómez Sánchez] find those responsible.” Martínez also insisted that State Attorney General Gómez Sánchez present the facts to the public.

Edomex officials, however, have taken a very different position on the case than has Congressman Martínez. The Edomex Secretary of the Government, José Manzur Quitoga, immediately rejected the accusations that the bones found in the canal were human remains. Manzur explained that the state’s canals are regularly cleaned at this time of the year to avoid flooding, and as such that bones are occasionally found. The former Edomex attorney general, Miguel Ángel Contreras Nieto, had previously reported that of the more than 7,000 calcified remains found in the Ecatepec canal from prior draining, 98.9% belonged to animals and only 1.1% to humans. The remains collected during the most recent draining are thus undergoing DNA testing to determine the origins, which Manzur acknowledged could take some time. Also negating what Congressman Martínez had claimed, the state government reported that the sex of the skeletal remains, whether human beings or not, have still yet to be determined. Manzur concluded that Martínez’s claims were “incorrect,” and that the congressman should “act responsibly” and not spread misinformation.

Conflicting information also emerged between the two sides regarding an alleged meeting that occurred on October 8 between the State Attorney General’s Office (PGJE); officials from state offices that deal with crime, homicide, femicide, and human trafficking; and the families of 40 previously disappeared women in Edomex, which may have some connection to the remains discovered in the canal. According to Proceso, Congressman Martínez assures that he was not only present at the meeting as a representative of the families of the disappeared that reside in his district, but also that a recording of the meeting exists “in which the PGJE acknowledges the finding of the 21 bodies between June 1 and September 30.” Martínez also released a photo taken of one of the alleged human remains found in the canal before authorities removed the body.

The conflicting information coming from Congressman Martínez and the Government of the State of México will presumably be settled once the DNA testing and investigations into the matter conclude.


EFE. “Presunto hallazgo de varios muertos”.” Diario Yucatán. October 13, 2014.

Redacción. “De animals, el 98% de los restos hallados en canal de Ecatepec: PGJEM.” SDP Noticias. October 14, 2014.

Redacción. “Revelan hallazgo de 21 cuerpos en el Gran Canal de Ecatepec; la PGJEM lo niega.” Proceso. October 14, 2014.

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