Human Rights and Civil Society

Ministry of the Interior releases more data on disappeared persons in Mexico

Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez (right) and SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón. Photo: Victor Camacho, La Jornada.
Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez (right) and SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón. Photo: Victor Camacho, La Jornada.

08/23/14 — Mexico’s Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB) released conflicting data again on the number of disappeared persons (desaparecidos) in Mexico. In a message delivered on August 21 by Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez, alongside SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón, the Mexican government announced that there are 22,322 missing persons, of which 12,532 occurred under the Calderón administration (2006-2012) and 9,790 under the Peña Nieto administration (2012-2018). This is an increase in the number reported by Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong in June when SEGOB confirmed that there were 16,000 missing, data which he clarified after releasing confusing reports in May saying there 8,000 disappearances. After President Felipe Calderón left office in 2012, the database of missing persons was just over 26,000, though Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) increased that number to 29,707. With SEGOB’s clarification, the combined lists of current disappearances under the Calderón and Peña Nieto administrations now stands at over 22,300.

The Mexican government has faced intense criticism from local, national, and international organizations to do more to curb the problem of disappearances. As such, when President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014, efforts to locate missing persons resulted in the discovery of 13,444 such persons, 95% of who were alive (12,821). This number, explains Proceso, is in addition to the over 17,000 persons located that disappeared under the Calderón administration, 95% of who were also found alive (16,274). In addition, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) created a Disappeared Persons Task Force (Unidad Especializada de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas, UEBPD) in May 2013, which directs, coordinates, and supervises the search for disappeared persons across the country, as well as prosecutes cases and identify remains, among other responsibilities. Although the task force has been criticized for underperforming and lacking clarity, the PGR is working to strengthen it, having recently created a new two-week training program for task force personnel to better understand human rights and develop special skills needed to search for disappeared persons.

Still, critics have long argued that the government needs to do more, including strengthening efforts to find disappeared persons, and holding those responsible accountable. In particular, the inconsistency in the government’s reported data in recent months exemplifies the need for a more efficient database and tracking mechanisms.


“Ministry of the Interior confirms 16,000 disappeared in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. June 21, 2014.

“Mexico’s Disappeared Persons Task Force in operation despite criticism.” Justice in Mexico. July 10, 2014.

Associated Press. “Mexico Increases Number of Missing to 22,322.” ABC News. August 21, 2014.

Delgado, Álvaro. “En México hay 22 mil 322 personas ‘no localizadas.’” Proceso. August 21, 2014.

Martínez, Fabiola. “’No localizadas’, 22 mil 322 personas en el país: subprocuradora Benítez.” La Jornada. August 22, 2014.

“In Mexico There Are 22,332 ‘Missing’ People.” Mexico Voices. August 22, 2014.

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