Sunday, June 16, 2024

Search collective finds cluster of clandestine grave sites in Sonora

More than two dozen clandestine graves have been found outside of Hermosillo, the capital of the northwestern state of Sonora.

The newspaper El Economista reported 29 graves were found over the weekend while the newspaper La Jornada put the total at 26. Although there was no official body count, remains from at least 20 dead bodies were located, according to one collective involved in the search.

One member of the search party shared images of a discovery at the site. (Ceci Flores/X)

The discovery occurred near El Choyudo based on an anonymous tip. The town is a community of about 450 people on the Gulf of California about 100 kilometers southwest of Hermosillo.

The groups leading the search included the Searching Female Warriors of Sonora and the Searching Mothers of Sonora, whose motto is, “We do not look for blame, only what has been taken from us.”

The Sonora Attorney General’s Office (FGJE) said the number of clandestine graves was 26. On hand were officials from the state of Sonora, the Sonora branch of the National Search Commission (CNB), and the National and State Guard. Excavation work in the area is expected to continue as long as needed.

Ceci Flores, a founder of Searching Mothers of Sonora, wrote on the social media site X, “We are walking over a clandestine cemetery. We could be stepping on our children without knowing it. The hope of a country that is dying is buried here.”

More than 110,000 people are registered as missing, with the number increasing dramatically since Mexico began a militarized drug war in 2006. The vast majority have never been found. (César Gómez Reyna/Cuartoscuro)

Before the discovery, Flores last week had placed a blanket on the Angel of Independence in Mexico City as a way of asking cartel members not to threaten women who search for their missing children.

“With these blankets, I could have sheltered my children, but now I have to use them to leave them a message: Have mercy on the mothers and do not threaten us, do not kill us, let us search for our missing people,” she declared in a video.

It is a plea that has been heard before.

Another plea has to do with the lack of action on the part of Mexican authorities. Last year, the mothers of the missing took to the streets throughout Mexico on Mother’s Day to protest the government’s failure to locate their loved ones.

Flores and other madres buscadoras (searching mothers) have been victimized by threats and gunshots.

Some of them have even been murdered, including Rosario Lilián Rodríguez, a member of “Hearts Without Justice.” She had been openly searching for her missing 20-year-old son for nearly three years when she herself was abducted in August 2022 and found murdered the next day in her small town in Sinaloa.

She was one of at least six volunteer search activists murdered from the start of 2021 through the middle of 2023.

According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, between 2006 and 2023, authorities and activist groups located more than 5,600 clandestine graves throughout Mexico.

“Many … missing people were likely killed and buried in hidden graves by criminal groups, the military or police,” HRW noted.

In December, the federal government provided an update on a controversial new “census” of missing persons being conducted across the country, and said 15% of the over 110,000 people listed in the government missing persons registry had been located.

With reports from El Economista, La Jornada and Noticias

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