Briefing note. Discussion of the Declaration of Absence in Cases of Disappearance

The effects of the crisis on unemployment, wages and benefits have put Mexicans in a situation of economic insecurity. Disappearances complicate the economic circumstances of a victim’s family. The disappeared contributed with an important share of the household income through wages and social benefits such as health care and government housing assistance in the National Workers Housing Fund Institute (Instituto Nacional para el Fomento de la Vivienda de los Trabajadores or INFONAVIT). Families of the disappeared cannot receive any pension payments because the whereabouts of the victim is unknown, and therefore she or he cannot be declared dead. Also, the situation of uncertainty and worry for their loved ones has impacted families’ physical and emotional health. Health expenses therefore add to the costs of investigation and litigation in the absence of state authorities’ investigations in the context of economic and physical insecurity in the country.

If families want to retain social benefits and receive some form of pension, they have to apply for the presumption of death of the victim, which takes up to six year at least to complete. This impacts families emotionally because once the person is presumed dead, investigations end. Thus, families feel they betrayed their disappeared by having to choose access to basic services over looking for their missing relative.

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The Number Games

Press release from FUNDEM May 2014.

On February 2013, the Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación) presented a list with 26,121 people disappeared. On May 2014, the National Commission of Human Rights indicated to the Senate that 24,800 people were disappeared. In the same month, the State Attorney’s Office said that only 13,195 cases remained in the list of disappearances. Latter, the Ministry of the Interior said to the Senate that only 8,000 cases of disappearances that occurred during the past presidential administration remained unsolved. In addition, authorities continue to be silent about the number of disappearances taking place under the current presidential administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). The Senate did not even raise questions regarding the conflicting numbers presented by different government agencies, failing to fulfill its function of check-and-balances in human rights issues.

Since 2011, FUNDEM has asked the federal government to create a National Registry of Disappeared Persons. Until today, the number of cases of disappearance remains unclear and the silence of state authorities regarding the methodology used to disclose such numbers adds to the already existing confusion. This raises the question: How many cases of disappearance is the government in fact investigating?

Fuerzas Unidas Por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México.

Mother’s Day for the Mothers of the Disappeared

Mothers Day 2014: Mexican Mamás March For Disappeared Sons, Demand Action From Enrique Peña Nieto

Mothers Day

Mothers and relatives hold a banner with pictures of their family members, who they say are victims forcibly disappeared, during a march at Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City, May 10, 2014. The mothers are demanding Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto release the results from police investigations into their missing children, reported local media. Mexicans will celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10. The banner reads as “Missing. Nuevo Leon”. Reuters
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UNITED FORCES FOR OUR DISAPPEARED IN COAHUILA AND MEXICO (FUUNDEC) Press release February 10, 2014. LIES FROM STATE AUTHORITIES.

On February 8th, 2014, the Governor of Coahuila Ruben Moreira and the Assistant Attorney Juan José Yañez informed FUUNDEC and representatives of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the National Commission of Human rights about the recent search operations for the disappeared taking place in the northern region of the state of Coahuila. The governor affirmed that heavy machinery was not used in the operation, and journalists were not allowed in the search zone. He also mentioned that appropriate protocols for the collection of evidence were followed.

However, appropriate protocols were not followed as it was revealed by a news report released by the American channel Univision. The video shows how evidence was not preserved, the crime scene was not protected and heavy machinery was used. These practices are not compatible with international search protocols and diminish the possibilities of finding the disappeared and arrest those responsible for their disappearance. To the families of the victims, this search operation is more of a public relations strategy rather than a genuine effort to assist the victims and their families. For that reason, FUUNDEC decided to suspend any dialogue and consultation with state and federal authorities until the Governor of Coahuila and the General Commissioner of the Federal Police Enrique Galindo give FUUNDEC an explanation for the lack of appropriate protocol in the search operations.

FUUNDEC also asks international organizations for their assistance in the collection, classification and preservation of evidence that results from search operations. (In press release from January 31, 2014, FUUNDEC suggested the Government of Coahuila to join the Agreement of Collaboration for the Identification of Human Remains with the Attorney-in-General’s Office. This agreement was already used in the massacres of San Fernando and Cadereyta. The goal of this agreement is the creation of a Commission of Forensic Experts led by Argentina’s group of forensic anthropologists, which includes international and national forensic experts).

FUUNDEC is also organizing a “Truth Caravan” to demand results and the implementation of appropriate search protocols to state authorities. The caravan will depart from Torreon Coahuila on February 14th, 2014 and arrive the same day at the city of Saltillo, capital of the state.

Please contact the Governor of Coahuila on twitter @GobDeCoahuila and the Federal police @SSP_mx to show your support to the families in their protest.