06/22/14 (written by amacdonald) — Just one month after the Mexican government released contradicting data on the number of disappeared persons in Mexico, the head of the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB), Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, confirmed that there are in fact 16,000 missing. On June 16, Osorio Chong clarified at a press conference that the nearly 16,000 disappeared is a combination of the roughly 8,000 accounted for at the end of former President Felipe Calderón’s term (2006-2012) plus the 7,615 reported missing since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012. When broken down that equates to 17 disappearances a day during Peña Nieto’s year and a half in office, commented Juan López Villanueva of the Mexican Fray Juan de Larios Human Rights Center
The problem of disappearances in Mexico has received increased national international attention from civil society groups and NGOs. Despite the government’s acknowledgement of the staggering number of disappeared persons, human rights organizations have continued to offer their criticism of the government’s inaction. For example, critics have claimed that Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) has only investigated just over 400 cases of the total disappeared. For his part, Carlos Moreno of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity argues that both the Peña Nieto and Calderón administrations have underreported the number of disappearances in Mexico. As quoted in La Jornada, Moreno said, “The [number of] disappeared continues to rise, but the government does not allow an exact figure to be given, so the public thinks it continues decreasing.” Meanwhile, families of the disappeared criticize the government for its back-and-forth reporting on official statistics, especially with Osorio Chong’s recent reporting, calling it a ‘game of numbers’ (juego de cifras). They also argue that the government’s process to calculate the true number of disappeared “continues without clarity.”
The government’s confirmation on the total number of disappeared comes on the heels of a controversial case surrounding a missing person in May. On May 12, 2014, Sandra Lúz Hernández was killed in Culiacán, Sinaloa while trying to locate her disappeared son, Édgar García Hernández. Because of the authorities’ apparent lack of urgency in finding her son who had disappeared more than two years before, Sandra investigated the case herself, going to the media and following tips and leads about Édgar’s disappearance. She was shot dead while traveling to meet a person who had phoned her the day before with potential information about her son’s whereabouts. Her case is the most recent example to bring attention to Mexican authorities’ apparent lack of accountability and urgency in investigating missing persons.