Two young men remain missing almost a month after they were allegedly abducted by the National Guard (GN) in Michoacán, but the federal government denies that the security force committed a crime.
Footage filmed by a resident of Los Reyes, a municipality that borders Jalisco, shows guardsmen searching three young men whose pickup truck they allegedly stopped on December 8.
The video shows that the young men were subsequently taken away in their vehicle, with one guardsman driving and another traveling in the back of the pickup. One of the men was released hours later, but only after he was tortured, the newspaper El Universal reported.
The whereabouts of the other two men is unknown. The federal government on Wednesday denied that the men had been abducted by the GN, describing reports that asserted otherwise as fake news.
“According to the disseminated version [of events], the National Guard was implicated in a supposed case of the disappearance of two young men in Michoacán. That information turned out to be false,” fake news debunker Ana García Vilchis told President López Obrador’s regular news conference.
She said guardsmen found an abandoned pickup in Los Reyes with weapons, ammunition and tactical equipment in it. The vehicle and its contents were turned over to the federal Attorney General’s Office, García said, adding that no arrests were made.
Eunice Ceja Escalera, sister of one of the missing men, told El Universal in an interview that García’s remarks amount to “a complete lie.”
“You can clearly see in the videos that it was GN members who took them. … What is happening is that they don’t want to take responsibility,” she said.
Ceja confirmed that neither her brother, Gabriel Escalera, nor the other missing man have been found.
“It’s now going on a month [since they disappeared]. The GN first released a statement saying they were going to investigate, that they wouldn’t allow [such conduct] but now they’re saying that they didn’t take them,” she said.
Ceja accused the National Guard and federal government of “playing” with the families of the missing men, adding that their denial that a crime occurred amounted to “a lack of respect toward us.”
Ceja told El Universal that her family had struggled to cope with the disappearance of Gabriel. “We don’t know where he is, we don’t know if he’s still alive. Not knowing is infuriating… and then the government does nothing,” she said.
“They should tell us where my brother is, they should return him to us. … [We want] the government to take responsibility for its actions,” Ceja said. “… It’s not fair that they kidnap people and now they act as if nothing happened,” she said.
Ceja said that she and her family are prepared to do whatever is required to ensure that the National Guard members who abducted her brother are held to account and Gabriel is returned to them.
The two missing men are among more than 95,000 desaparecidos in Mexico. Official security forces – including police and members of the armed forces – were involved or allegedly involved in some of the disappearances, including the kidnapping and presumed murder of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014 and dozens of abductions in Tamaulipas in 2018.
Two members of the National Guard were taken into custody on kidnapping charges in Oaxaca last year, while a third guardsmen implicated in the crime was shot by state investigative police and subsequently died in hospital.
With reports from El Universal