Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rage and helplessness; "Los desaparecidos"

Marcela Turati El Diario de Coahuila/Proceso (June 2, 2013)

Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

Mothers and fathers have confronted the administrative disorder of morgues and cemeteries, where cadavers decompose underground in total anonymity because of the incompetence, the bureaucracy and the institutionalized negligence.

MEXICO, D.F. (Proceso).-- Beatriz Mejia Diaz returned for the nth time to a Mexico City morgue to ask them to show her the records of all unidentified bodies they had kept in their vaults.

"Ma'am, you've already been here several times, your daughter is not in the records," an employee told her when she asked for the files. Stubbornly, she insisted on being allowed to personally inspect every one of the files beginning on November 4, 2011, when her daughter Alejandra Viridiana Osornio Mejia disappeared, whether the files were on men, children or old people.

When she was reviewing documents dated January 27, 2012, she found her. They had kept her there as "NI" (No Identificado: unidentified) and sent her to a mass grave.

"I found my daughter's clothing. They told me they only had her cranium, for me to go to the Medical Examiner's Office (Semefo: Servicio Medico Forense)  at Izcalli. But over there, they had lost the file with her information. Neither could they find her clothes in the (Semefo) amphitheater. I don't understand; how is it possible that they sent her to a mass grave when I filed so many reports and had been looking for her so long?," says the woman outside the Attorney General's Office building (PGR) where she had gone to yell in rage and disgust at the Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, and the Secretary of the Interior, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, for the torment she had undergone since her 21-year old daughter had been kidnapped from the Victoria's bar/pool hall in Cuautitlan.

She yelled at them when they announced, once again, the creation of a Investigations and Search Unit for Disappeared Persons.


"From November 28, 2011, I began to visit semefos (medical examiners facilities. I went to the one in Tlalneplantla, which is the main one for the State of Mexico, then to the one in Texcoco, then to the one in Ecatepec, the one in Amecameca, and even to the one in the Federal District, in Colonia Doctores. They never let me review the files personally; the people in charge would input the characteristics into the computer and they would perform the so-called search, until I demanded that I be allowed to look for myself, and there she was. That's what I came to tell the PGR: that how was it possible that my daughter had been buried for so long in a mass grave without anybody telling me anything," says Beatriz Mejia, who just a few minutes ago had been yelling with pain and fury.

With her were other mothers and fathers who have confronted the administrative disorder of morgues and cemeteries, where cadavers decompose underground and in total anonymity due to the incompetence, the bureaucracy and the institutionalized negligence. At least 24,000 bodies remain buried in mass graves awaiting a decent burial, but, because of the administrative chaos, they suffer a double disappearance; the first one when they were kidnapped, the second when forensic investigators misclassified them, lost the personal belongings they had on them, entered their personal information incorrectly into the computer or sent them to a mass grave mixed up with other bodies, and many times didn't even record their last location.

Abril Selena Caldino Rodriguez suffered the same fate. She disappeared on May 26, 2011, and was found dead a few days later in a "municipality close to Tecamac" and sent to a mass grave. Two years later, this past Mothers Day, authorities discovered that the fifteen-year-old's cadaver had been classified as that of a 45 year old woman, and it took weeks to find it because they lost the investigation file that showed the cemetery where it was buried.


Instead of having a fifteenth birthday party, young Bianca Edith Barron Cedillo had a funeral ceremony, because this past April, the family identified the clothing and physical characteristics of a cadaver sent to a mass grave in May of last year, a week after it was found, when a forensic investigator classified the body as that of woman 25 to 30 years old. Because of that, when her mother asked them to look for the body of a fifteen-year old, they could find no records even though the body had been found the day after her disappearance.

Or the case of Barbie, Barbara Reyes, a 17-year old girl who disappeared on August 8, 2011, in Tlalnepantla, whose remains were found 18 months later in a mass grave after her mother did the same thing: personally review each file.

Her mother, Lourdes Muniz, had initiated a campaign to find her; she even got the authorities in the State of Mexico to assign a team to the search and to offer a reward for any information that would help find her, but it didn't occur to the officials to compare the records from the morgues.

Another mother with the same problem suggested that she go to the Semefo where she found her: she was registered -- in pencil, because there was no computer-- as an 18-year old woman, whose body was found miles from where her disappearance was reported.

"I started with the Semefo at Cuautitlan Izcalli, then I went to the one at Cuautitlan,  and there I discovered there was an unclaimed body with matching age, sex and other characteristics. They told me to go to Barrientos to look at the photographs and that's how I identified my daughter's clothes, her blouse and her tennis shoes. I also took with me the plaster moldings of her teeth, which were also similar. Then we went to the La Loma state cemetery in Cuautitlan, where it took them three days to find her because there was total disorder: there were bodies that were mixed up, they had taken some from private graves to the mass graves, or they shouldn't have been there. They estimated that they would find her in the first few square yards, but they ended up digging up 64 square yards, and when it got complicated, they told me they could only find the cranium," says Lourdes, outside the PGR building, where she also demanded justice for her daughter in a loud voice.


"All I recovered were my daughter's bones, no clothing or anything else. Nobody knows anything," she says with annoyance and resignation. She addresses her daughter:

"Today, after 20 months of arduous searching, of frustration, pain and tears... my little girl, we have found you, not like we --dad, mom, sisters, family and friends -- wanted... Forgive us for our ineffectiveness and for taking 19 months to find you... but other bastard bureaucrats, who didn't do their jobs and sent you to a mass grave, obstructed us... But it didn't matter, we finally found you and recovered you, like we promised, and soon you'll lie beside your grandmothers, your grandfathers and uncles."

The Barbie scandal unplugged the sewer in the State of Mexico, it was a faithful reflection of what is happening throughout the country. Because of pressure from mothers, they had to show the photographs of all the bodies. "All that process of looking at bodies wears you out, it's devastating," says Mrs. Guillermina Hernandez, mother of 14-year old teenager Selena Giselle Delgado, who disappeared on April 29, 2010, in Ecatepec.

"The semefos don't have a well-built system; they put in the age that they believe the body has, without investigating. They don't have an infrastructure, they don't record dates. If they store clothing, they lose it, they don't keep it with to the body," says the woman, who has also searched cemeteries like the one in Texcoco, where she discovered that bodies classified as "Unidentified" were buried in the pathways between the graves, and grave sites that were identified only with a file number on a piece of paper wrapped in a plastic bag. She has already been to Naucalpan, Texcoco, Iztapalapa and Barrientos. And nothing...

She feels that if her daughter was disappeared by a woman dentist, who she believes is responsible, the government has disappeared her for a second time with its lack of organization, its incompetence, its negligence.


That's why she went to the PGR with other mothers who are also looking for their disappeared sons and daughters, just about the time they announced the formation of the specialized team that Osorio Chong had already announced in February, but which, as provided in the legislation, assigns only 12 agents from the Public Ministry to look for thousands of persons reported disappeared or "not found" -- 27,000 from the previous administration--, and that does not yet have legal recognition, mandate, offices or a budget.  

The work in the Semefo amphitheaters and in the cemeteries is arduous. Between 2006 and 2012, the PGR's national database of genetic profiles (DNA database) received 15,618 (genetic) profiles of unknown persons who died violently, of whom only 425 were identified, according to the report that the La Jornada newspaper published on January 2nd.

In thirteen states (Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Colima, Guerrero,  Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Oaxaca) there are no genetics [DNA] laboratories to identify cadavers. In addition, in some of them, forensic autopsies are performed in privately-owned funeral homes or in cemeteries and, in many cases, unidentified bodies are sent to mass graves with incomplete files and without comparing their fingerprints, photographic files or DNA with national databases kept by the PGR or the federal Secretariat of Public Security. Criteria for exhumations and for the handling of cadavers have not been standardized.

Milenio reporter Victor Hugo Michel disclosed in October, 2012, that municipalities reported that they had sent 24,000 unidentified bodies to mass graves during the previous six-year period. According to official figures, only 3% of murder victims who are classified as "NI" in cemeteries are subsequently identified, as in the cases of Bianca, Barbie and Viridiana.

Currently, each state has its own time limits, which range from one day to six months, in which to send an unidentified body to a mass grave.  Each municipality has its own regulations for classifying the body and determining how many bodies may be buried in a grave. Some remains are incinerated.


The humanitarian crises caused by the disappearance of persons forced the federal government to ask the Red Cross International Committee (CICR: Comite Internacional de la Cruz Roja) for help by intervening in Mexico and, among other things, dealing with the disorganization that exists in the Semefos and in the cemeteries, which is an important obstacle in finding people.

On February 21, an agreement was signed to allow this international entity, founded in 1863, to provide advice to Mexican authorities.

Romanick Ferraro, legal counsel for the CICR delegation in Mexico, begins the interview with Proceso by stating that the committee's principles are neutrality, impartiality and independence, and that in countries where it works bilaterally (with agreements with governments or known armed groups), they maintain confidentiality. Whatever reports it produces will not be made public if the Mexican government does not wish.

He explains that the thematic hubs of the humanitarian organization with respect to the disappearance of persons are prevention (to prevent disappearances), clearing up the person's fate (by promoting mechanisms for establishing the truth), processing information (collection and production of clear information), forensic identification and support for all of a family's needs, as well as encouragement so they will participate with authorities in he search. The Mexican government will decide on which of those subjects it will need guidance.

When asked what his function will be, he insists: "The content is part of the confidential dialogue, we will provide advice to the Mexican government on whatever it asks."


While authorities draft new protocols that may take years to implement, Mr. Jose Serrano travels the country looking for his son, David Serrano Sandoval, a 38-year old lawyer who was kidnapped on June 16, 2012, in Lerma, State of Mexico, by a cell of the La Mano con Ojos criminal organization, which later became part of the Acapulco Independent Cartel. Although from the beginning the family had help from the Federal Police anti-kidnapping unit, the lawyer's freedom was never obtained.

This year, the PGR's Human Rights Section has been advising this father to verify whether his son was processed through some semefo, whether in the Federal District, the State of Mexico, or in Guerrero. On one occasion, the prosecutor Rosario Sandoval, with the SEIDO (specialized unit for investigating organized crime), mistakenly told him he had been found in Mexico City.

"Since August 15, when the negotiations with the kidnappers ended, I began to go to semefos; those in Mexico City, Cuernavaca and Toluca; to hospitals, to see if he was wounded, I went from bed to bed looking at patients. I've continued to to visit those places, I've seen bodies they've shown me in Lerma, Toluca, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco and Chilpancingo," recalls Mr. Serrano.

His search has become an agony.  


  1. The question is "Is Mexico Safe" ?

    Experts with answers here

  2. this sucks to read this..I can't even imagine the pain and suffering these families go thru.. they won't identify corpses that were found, and they will disappear them for a second time, making the family even more harder to find them.. but yes they'll photograph and even fingerprint Heriberto Lazcano and even create a media frenzy for his bitch ass..this is so messed up.

  3. Great work guys!!! Good to see their is some that dont sell out!!! And got ball!! The reporters. Keep up the great work

  4. I once read or saw in the news that only 25% of all narco trafficking related detainees in Mexico remained in prison for any definite amount of time; of those that were arraigned, only 15% were convicted. That needs to change if Mexico wants to rid itself of the plague of mass and serial murderers/kidnappers.

  5. Imagine if it was this little bastards"Miguel Angel Osorio Chong"daughter,or EPNs useless idiotic spawn?Would they get answers?Mexican women suffering again for the loss of their young daughters,and the powers that be couldn't care less?
    These young women are much much more important than"narco killings"but wait and see how many posts this story elicits?It should be more urgent and important than any Chapo,Mayo,Zeta,CDG/CDS bullshit,but it won't be.This is fuckin heartbreaking,the way in which young women are murdered and are not even investigated?This is an ongoing indictment of Mexico and her authorities,women and girls just taken and nothing is done about it?They are more important than any bitch ass men,yup,women are more important than men.

  6. Sometimes i can just about keep reading.If you want to find out you must read on.We all must read on,to know this kind of monstrosity is still happening,women and girls are being treated like this?2013 and this bullshit is still being allowed to happen?Allowed to happen!What is being done to stop this?What kind of sentences,what kind of investigating,what kind of help,what kind of urgency to find the guilty,what kind of resources are being directed to end this type of animal behavior?The strongest possible deterrent sentences put in place to any man who does this shit?If your country is to cowardly and politically correct to kill these worthless pieces of shit,put them away"for ever"Personally i would like them executed,but that is"UN-civilized"we cannot kill human beings in 2013?But,we can allow women to be raped and killed and dumped like rubbish?All you non execution bleeding hearts can fuck off with your"we are better than that"rhetoric,because that is what it is,rhetorical idealistic bullshit.

  7. to all Mexican readers:
    Where are your balls? Why do you allow this to happen to your own people? I will take up the fight if you will. You have many friends who admire the Mexican People and will stand and fight with you. Why don't you form a front that will end this? Are you scared? Do you not care? I'm not talking about peaceful protest because that will not work. I'm talking about destroying the Mexican System and starting anew...

  8. Good choice "un vato" this needs telling and informing as many people as possible.Its a litany of lost morality and respect for women,and consequently everything.Its hard to understand how these kinds of things can be tacitly tolerated at any kind of level.Where is the action to stop it?
    Where are the statements of sentence etc,statements that say unequivocally"you will be punished in the harshest possible way"is there even the will to investigate and punish?

  9. June 3, 2013 at 7:45 PM
    Dude,are you Mexican?Its not just about balls,we know Mexicans have balls,i think it is something more entrenched,maybe cultural allied to the lack of law enforcement?Something seems to be wrong when you can see videos of young men killing women and mothers?There is violence all over the world,but organized and videoed wherein you can see a kind of crazy sadism even against women?How did it come to this?

  10. If some think the United States is incompetent, think again. Mexico is a 100 times that. Thats why nothing gets done or resolved. Either there is corruption going on, or incompetence. Just monkeys with no clear direction. Mexico lacks proper infrastructure at every level.

    I even theorize to say that since the highly educated people are few and far between, just having any kind of title gets you a job in Mexico. This meaning that the options for candidates are few. They get what they can get.

    Lastly, lets not forget about all the people who are grandfathered in by their relatives to high positions, who have no experience in said fields.

    Its a vicious cycle.

  11. I admire the Syrian rebels fighting the Syrian army for freedom,why us mexicans don't stand for our selfs and fight this fucken corrup regime ( Mexico),and brake this chain of corruption.I'm tire of seen my people's human rights violated,and abuse in every angle by the corrupt Mexican government.the rebels in syria fighting,are being backed by the U.S with drug money

  12. June 4, 2013 at 10:22 PM
    "I admire the Syrian rebels fighting the Syrian army for freedom"
    Dude,dont believe all you see and hear on the media about Syria.There are shady tricks going on,and as for the FSA=Fake Syrian Army,we have seen with our own eyes what kind of people they are.Bashar al-Assad is a legitimate sovereign leader,how come all of a sudden he isn't,and we underhandedly help terrorists?We are being manipulated again!

  13. June 4, 2013 at 10:22 PM
    "I'm tire of seen my people's human rights violated,and abuse in every angle by the corrupt Mexican government"
    Bro,were all tired of seeing Mexico going through this,no matter if your Mexican or not.Politicians and so-called elites should hang their heads in utter shame,at the plight of its own people and country,a country that could be so much more with the right people behind it.

  14. Look how many comments this story garnered?Why am i not surprised.This story should elicit more importance than many others,i guess this isn't surprising to the poster neither,i wonder how many views it had,,and no one bothering to post an opinion?I bet it was to long for some peoples attention span?

  15. @8:08

    I could not agree more, I am frankly disgusted and sadden by it. Thank you VERY much for your thoughtful comment....Paz, Chivis


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