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Photo: Transferencia Tec/Animal Político
Despite AMLO's promises to combat disappearances, they have gone up since he's taken office. Photo: Transferencia Tec/Animal Político

Nearly 79,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006

The dead and missing persons are increasing in a country still in transition and embroiled in a War on Drugs.

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The biggest crisis of missing persons in Latin America is still happening in Mexico. The numbers are higher than during the Cold War and the shocking trail of killings and disappearances enforced by militant guerrillas are estimated at more than 79,000 — higher than in Guatemala, Argentina, and Chile.

There are beaches of past military landings that are made of bones and immense hallowed fields of past battles with similar legacies, but all pale when compared to the sands of Torreón, Coahuila. 

On the dunes, can be found the fragments and shards of bones that exploded after hours of burning. It's a practice of the cartels that erases any trace of an opponent.

There are similar graves, like the one in Guanajuato, with a size so large that it is impossible to know exactly how many people were killed there. Despite the outrage, the result of discovering of such sites is more silence and pain.

The person in charge of fighting disappearances and defining them in Andres Manuel López Obrador's government is a 41-year-old feminist lawyer, Karla Quintana. She is the National Commissioner of Searches for Persons and was previously in charge of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia.

On the surface, Quintan seems to finally represent an institutional interest in putting an end to Mexico's pandemic of disappearances. By the stats, that involves an average of two disappeared persons per day.

The main suspects involved are the Zetas and other drug cartels as well as corrupt members of local police and government. With a tight budget of $22 million, Quintana's department faces what appears an impossible mission with a great inconvenience: It does not having the judicial capacity to initiate proceedings without the consent of local jurisdictions that are often corrupt.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Quintana defended her position in government and its mission.

"Many people believe that human rights defenders always have to be in opposition to the government. But I would say that there are certain moments when it is necessary, there is no other option than to be with the government," she said.

After years of squalor and little progress, she has institutional support for the mission but, above all, has the support of thousands of families who hope to be able to put an end to what is a national tragedy.

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