Disappeared in Mexico: Germany wants to help

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier promises German help in the search for the more than 100,000 people who have officially disappeared in Mexico.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier surrounded by a crowd

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on September 20 in Mexico City Photo: Marco Ugarte/apMarco Ugarte/apMarco Ugarte/ap

OAXACA taz | Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has offered the Mexican authorities to give the country more support in investigating cases of enforced disappearance. "It's a drama that the families involved don't know what happened to their loved ones because they just disappear," he said during a two-day visit to Mexico City on Wednesday. It is also tragic that many fatalities could not be identified.

More than 105,000 people are missing in Mexico. Many are kidnapped by organized crime groups for ransom or forcing them to work for the cartels. Others disappear while in the hands of security forces. 97 percent of those affected have been abducted since former head of state Felipe Calderón declared war on the mafia in 2006.

There has been a national search commission since 2017, and such institutions also exist in some states. However, it is primarily the relatives themselves who are looking for their sons, daughters or siblings, with the support of forensic scientists, lawyers and other experts.

After taking office in 2018, Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took up the cause of taking action against this crime. Yet during his tenure the number of disappeared has increased. Only in the case of 43 abducted studentswhich made international headlines, the government can point to visible successes.

Tens of thousands of unknown bodies

Steinmeier said it was not about blaming the Mexican leadership, it was about offering help. The federal government has for years run a program to assist Mexican coroners in identifying and registering bodies. The remains of tens of thousands of people whose identities are still unknown lie in Mexico's forensic institutes.

Steinmeier told journalists that the German government would step up aid. "I think we have very good skills there," said the President. Karla Quintana, head of the national search commission, pointed out that the actual number of disappeared is likely to be much higher than the official figure of 105,000. Many people did not dare to file a complaint because they feared reprisals.

the German Human Rights Coordination Mexico asked Steinmeier before his trip to express his concern about the high level of impunity, according to coordinator François Greve. Over 95 percent of cases go unconvicted.

This was also confirmed by relatives whom Steinmeier met during his visit. For example Ana Enamorado, whose son was abducted in 2010. Those responsible must be punished, she said, "otherwise the enforced disappearances will not stop."

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