A police officer examines a hidden grave in Nayarit. A police officer examines a hidden grave in Nayarit.

Body count at 33 in hidden Nayarit graves

Anonymous call to missing persons' families led to the discovery of clandestine graves

The number of bodies recovered by authorities from three clandestine graves in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit has risen to 33.

All the bodies were located on a property near the community of Pantanal in the municipality of Xalisco, about 10 kilometers south of state capital Tepic.

The first discovery was made Saturday after an organization of missing persons’ families received an anonymous call alerting it to the presence of a grave hidden among thick crops of banana plants and sugarcane.

After arriving at the property, members of the Colectivo Familias Unidas noticed a strong smell which led them to the exact site of the grave. Authorities excavated the grave and uncovered nine bodies.

On Monday, the group, assisted by state police and a dog squad, continued to search the property and detected two more clandestine graves; 14 bodies were recovered from one and six from the other.

Four more bodies were found yesterday but the number could rise further as the search continues.

All the remains were sent to a government morgue for identification.

The state government released a statement yesterday requesting assistance from the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) in the case. The statement called on the PGR to lead the investigation, identify the bodies and prosecute those responsible.

Violence — including mass disappearances — has increased in the small coastal state since the end of March 2017 when former state attorney general Édgar Veytia was arrested in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Since July last year, victims’ families began joining forces to denounce the disappearance of at least 200 people in the municipalities of Tepic, Xalisco and San Blás.

However, according to a report in the newspaper El Universal, while the state Attorney General’s office remained under the direction of people close to Veytia, it ignored the cases. It reported to the National Public Security System (SNSP) that just 25 people had disappeared in Nayarit since 2009.

In the final months of his administration, former governor Robert Sandoval attributed rising levels of violence to a realignment of cartel power as gangs tried to take advantage of a change of government.

It wasn’t until November 2017, two months after Antonio Echeverría García assumed office as governor, that the state government finally recognized that 206 reports of disappeared people had been made to the end of October last year.

In December, the Attorney General’s office updated disappearance figures with the SNSP, reporting that there are still 145 unresolved missing persons cases in the state including 114 cases that were reported last year.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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