More than 26,000 people remain missing in Mexico
Ineffectual 'drug war' has left many feared dead
One of the grimmest side effects of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's six-year "war on drugs," that ill-advisedly used the Mexican military against that country's drug cartels, are the thousands of civilians that have since gone missing. More than 26,000 people have gone missing in Mexico as the violence surged, killing innocent and guilty alike.
Families of those missing have grown increasingly frustrated with a sluggish response from authorities that have searched themselves for missing loved ones.
Enrique Pena Nieto has since assumed the presidency of Mexico in January. Nieto's government has formed a special working group to focus on finding the missing, Lia Limon, deputy secretary of legal matters and human rights for Mexico's Interior Ministry says. Finding the missing people "is a priority for this government," Limon told reporters.
The release of the government statistics comes after a report from Human Rights Watch said Mexican security forces were connected with the disappearances of at least 149 people during Calderon's tenure.
"President Pena Nieto has inherited one of worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America," the organization's Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch says that in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila alone, officials reported nearly 2,000 disappearances between 2006 and 2012.
Groups and activists say that the forced disappearances are among the most troubling problems Mexico faces. May still caution that these figures are inaccurate, as many disappearances go unreported.
The data federal authorities have don't specify what caused the disappearances. Limon says the list could include people who have emigrated out of the country or fled because of family conflicts, in addition to people who were kidnapped.
Critics have accused Mexico's government of not doing enough to find the missing and punish those responsible. Families of those missing have grown increasingly frustrated with a sluggish response from authorities that have searched themselves for missing loved ones.
Calderon said the "very high" number of missing people was a growing concern in October of 2011. He listed them among the victims of violence that he described as "open wounds" in Mexican society.
"We don't know the size of the problem," the president said during a speech inaugurating a new prosecutor's office aimed at helping victims.
Human Rights Watch said last week says that it does see a ray of hope in the new administration.
"The Pena Nieto government has been very open so far about acknowledging the scale of the problem and the work that remains for them," Nik Steinberg, a Mexico researcher for the organization says. "The real question will be: are they ready to investigate and prosecute these cases?"
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