There are more than 61,000 missing persons in Mexico, the federal government said on Monday, a figure significantly higher than that previously reported.
The official number of missing persons is 61,637, the chief of the National Search Commission told a press conference.
“These are data of horror that have a lot of stories of pain behind them, both of families in Mexico and of migrants,” Karla Quintana said.
The figure is 50% higher than the 40,180 persons reported as missing in January 2019 by former search commission chief Roberto Cabrera.
Quintana said the sharp increase is due to updated and carefully revised information from state-based Attorney General’s Offices. She explained that 60,053 of the missing persons disappeared between 2006, the year former president Felipe Calderón launched the war against drug cartels, and 2019.
The other disappearances occurred in previous years dating back to 1964, Quintana said.
The search commission chief said the highest number of disappearances have occurred in Tamaulipas, Jalisco, México state, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Coahuila, Puebla, Guerrero and Veracruz.
Just under three-quarters of the missing persons are men and just over one-quarter are women.
Almost a third of the total number of missing persons – 19,108 – disappeared between 2016 and 2018, the final three years of the Enrique Peña Nieto government.
In 2019, the first full year of the government led by President López Obrador, 9,164 people were reported as missing of whom 5,184 have not been located, said human rights undersecretary Alejandro Encinas. Among the number of people who disappeared last year and still haven’t been found are 1,177 women, he said.
Encinas also said that 1,124 bodies have been found in 873 hidden graves since López Obrador took office in December 2018.
Of that number, 395 have been identified and 243 have been returned to the victims’ families, he said, adding that the highest number of hidden graves have been uncovered in Sinaloa, Colima, Veracruz, Sonora and Jalisco.
The official said that between December 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019, authorities have carried out searches for hidden graves at 519 different locations across practically all of Mexico’s 32 federal entities. In February last year, Encinas described the country as a whole as an “enormous hidden grave.”
He said on Monday that the federal government will extend an invitation to the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances to have its members visit Mexico this year.
The government was criticized last month for failing to keep its promise to allow the committee to visit the country and thus open up Mexico’s investigative processes to international scrutiny.
Later on Monday, Quintana responded to criticism from the organization Data Cívica, which said on Twitter that the government had “obstructed and complicated efforts to understand the magnitude of the [forced] disappearance problem in the country.”
It claimed that the government neglected to explain the methodology used to arrive at the number of missing persons and didn’t subject its data to scrutiny by civil society.
“We have nothing to hide,” the search commission chief told the television program La Nota Dura.
“We have a massive load of information that has been reviewed by the National Search Commission itself . . .” Quintana said, adding that the methodology used to calculate the number of missing persons in Mexico will be made public in the coming weeks.