Since large numbers of people began to disappear nearly a decade ago, it has usually fallen to family members to determine what happened to the missing. Such is the case in Guerrero, where families were out searching for hidden graves near Iguala yesterday.
The day’s count: 10 graves, seven bodies.
The efforts were organized by the Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero (UPOEG), a community defense organization that identified possible locations by gathering information from area residents.
Since the Iguala massacre of September 26, some of those residents have been quoted in media outlets saying vehicles were often heard coming and going in the nearby hills during the night. Some even reported that they had seen places where the ground had been disturbed.
But few had said very much over the years in which the activities had taken place. They realized the potential danger in speaking out.
Members of UPOEG persuaded locals to reveal what they knew. One said that for many years people had driven up the hill in La Laguna, some 15 kilometers from Iguala, to leave bodies.
UPOEG called for volunteers to help in the search for graves, and 50 people responded, motivated by pain over the loss of loved ones, and hope that one way or another they would be found.
Machetes cleared the spiny huisache branches, sticks probed the ground for loose dirt. Having found some, the shovels took over and in the first excavation a bone is found less than half a meter deep. It looks like a human leg bone.
In their eighth excavation, this time in the area known as La Joya where corn grows on the surrounding hillsides, a body is found a meter and a half down, a sack over its head.
UPOEG leader Bruno Plácido says the organization began receiving complaints of missing persons in early 2013, mostly in Ayutla. What followed was the creation of committees to conduct searches: it believes that at least 500 people are missing from communities in the north and center of the state.
Plácido said the authorities take charge of exhumation when mass graves are found, so the volunteers are urged to be careful not to contaminate the evidence, which will be used in DNA testing to determine identity.
But although the authorities do indeed become involved, as always the families of the disappeared must take the initiative to begin the search. Until that responsibility is assumed by the state, any criminal justice reform that might come out of Iguala will remain unfinished.
Source: El Universal (sp)