Exhuming a grave in Nayarit. Exhuming a grave in Nayarit.

Nayarit graves legacy of ex-attorney general

As are justice and forensic infrastructure in ruins, his successor claims

The discovery of three mass graves in Nayarit earlier this month has underscored the extent of violence that has plagued the state and exposed serious shortcomings in its capacity to investigate crime.

The situation, says the government as well as many residents, is the legacy of “El Diablo,” or “The Devil.”

That would be former former state attorney general Édgar Veytia, who was arrested in March last year by United States border agents in San Diego, California, on drug trafficking charges.

Nayarit is now facing the consequences of one of its worst ever insecurity crises while its justice and forensic infrastructure are in ruins, according to the current attorney general, Petronilo Díaz Ponce.

Two weeks ago, state authorities and an organization of missing persons’ families made the grisly discovery of 33 bodies buried amid a sugar cane plantation in the municipality of Xalisco.

But the Nayarit government doesn’t have even the most basic forensic supplies needed to carry out an analysis of the bone remains. Instead, it requested the support of a forensic anthropologist and a criminologist from the Federal Police to undertake the work.

Veytia disbanded the state’s forensic genetics laboratory, Díaz told the newspaper Milenio.

“The laboratory is at a standstill, we’re talking about a backlog of more than 10 years. We don’t have the tools to identify bodies,” he said.

The state’s C5 criminal investigation center is also paralyzed. It only has two forensic pathologists and lacks the other investigative and forensic personnel it requires to operate.

Díaz also explained that the attorney general’s office was poorly equipped when the new state government took office in September last year.

“We’re starting from zero,” he claimed, again laying the blame squarely at the feet of Veytia.

The morgue in the state capital Tepic — where the forensic lab is also located — is completely abandoned, and a strong stench emanates from the building, Milenio reported.

In its parking lot, the bone remains of the 33 recovered bodies are laid out, either on the ground or on tables.

The victims’ muddied and torn clothes also lie strewn on blue tarpaulins on the ground next to traces of blood. A few sheets of paper covered with pen-written notes provide the only information about the gruesome find. Flies buzz around the scene.

From the moment the bodies were exhumed, identification protocols were not carried out as they should have been, say victims’ families and the president of the state Human Rights Commission.

“. . . Unfortunately, there is great discomfort for the families because of the lack of professionalism in the extraction of the bodies and the failure to adhere to the technical and scientific rigor [required] in the investigation,” Huicot Álvarez said.

A wave of disappearances and a surge of violence in the Pacific coast state followed Veytia’s arrest, which allegedly upset the established operation of criminal networks that had colluded with the former attorney general.

Violence spiked again after the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was ousted in favor of a National Action Party-Democratic Revolution Party (PAN-PRD) alliance in elections held in June.

The Colectivo Familias Unidas group says that more than 300 people disappeared during the previous administration, many in the second half of last year.

The attorney general’s office confirmed that it has received 313 reports of missing people since the new government assumed office on September 19. Most of the cases are still unresolved.

However, records from the previous government indicate that no reports of disappearances were made during former governor Roberto Sandoval’s administration. Nobody dared to make a report because of fear, victims’ families explained.

While the current government tries to fix the disaster left by Veytia and the Sandoval-led government, families are carrying out their own searches in a desperate attempt to locate their loved ones.

The Colectivo Familias Unidas spokesman is one of them. Santiago Pérez is determined to find his son, who was abducted from his workplace by a gang of armed men in June last year.

“I’m not going to stop until I find him alive or in the conditions that they have been finding bodies lately . . .” he said.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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