Sinaloan families look for lost relatives in mass graves

A group for 320 families looking for missing members is not pleased with the presentation of the national registry of disappearances and clandestine graves in Mexico.

The registry was revealed Jan. 6 by the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Sabuesos Guerreras, or Fighter Female Hounds, established three years ago in Culiacan, Sinaloa, began its mission with picks and shovels after its leader’s son went missing.

Maria Isabel Cruz began with eight mothers and eventually, they grew in light of what the group points out is a lack of attention from the local prosecutor due to the amount of disappearances.

According to Cruz, the work of searching for graves and missing people have resulted in identification of 12,862 human remains. The state of Sinaloa ranks first with 345 mass graves.

The group accuses the government of presuming wrong figures that were mostly the result of citizen findings, something they denounce as inaction by authorities.

“The searches have been made by families to find our people and these are numbers that they award for themselves,” Cruz told Anadolu Agency.

Mass graves in Mexico (Photo: Archive)

In the face of the situation, they make use of tools and maps to track down the missing in the region. Sometimes they find missing relatives. In other cases they find bodies that are not claimed. But they persist in tracking loved ones amid information puzzles.

Over time, they have learned methods, tools, as well as detection of smells, colors and types of land. “When it’s a recent body, it’s going to give a scent, but when it’s already four or five years old remains, there’s nothing left but the earth,” said Cruz. “The color change of the earth, you have to learn to read the earth, the color of the earth, of the weeds, you have to become very observant so that you see that it is not a pit. We have been learning it along the way,”

Cruz said families gather and discuss the main places occupied by organized crime. “You have to think like a criminal and act like a criminal to look for a grave,” she said.

They then go to the field, asking permission from criminal groups that control areas because members of the group need to take care of their safety in environments where they are in danger.

The report from the Mexican government

Government figures documemt 147,033 missing persons from 1960 – 2019, while in the case of the clandestine graves, 3,631 have been recorded between 2006 and 2019. Colima, Veracruz, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Coahuila and Chihuahua are the regions with the most serious records.

But the figures, says Cruz, are the result of the efforts of citizens, not local prosecutors.

“The government says it has all the technology, but I don’t see it. It’s us, the families, who are giving them points. Sadly, they claim to be conducting so many searches. Lies. Recognize the work of the families,” she said, and added that this shows the inability of the General Prosecutor and local ones to investigate and punish high impact crimes.

 A personal drama turned into a mission

The history of Cruz, just like one of thousands of Mexicans, is of a mother who became an improvised investigator seeking to find her son, Yosimar Garcia Cruz, whose birthday would be Jan. 26, and three years after he went missing, she still has no information on his whereabouts.

The younger Cruz, who worked as a municipal policeman, went missing Jan. 26, 2017 at the hands of an unknown armed command. It happened after he found himself helping a convoy of soldiers conducting an operation to move a prominent drug dealer from Badiraguato, Sinaloa, the hometown of the convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, creator of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The investigation followed by Cruz’s mother, suggests it was retaliation for supporting the army during the operation and it aimed to delete any testimony on the attack where the cartel killed five troops.

One by one, municipal policemen who helped disappeared, and was Cruz’s turn. So far, authorities have not resolved anything about the case that is three years old.

“They don’t tell me anything because I have done the whole investigation, I have done all the searches. My son will be disappeared for three years on Jan. 26. If I ever found anything, they will say ‘we found.’”

According to Cruz, families that constitute the group have gone through the same hardship. “They come to the authorities, wait for what they have to tell them, time goes by, three months, four months, and they star realizing that authorities have not done anything” she said.

In Sinaloa, 345 clandestine graves have accumulated. In the first year of the current government, 144 were found, that is, 16.49% of the entire country.

The group is not only the Sabuesos Guerreras, who were given the name because it is comprised of mostly mothers. Las Rastreadoras de El Fuerte y Tesoros Perdidos, or The Fort Trackers and Missing Treasures, are in Mazatlan.

“Society has to wake up. It is a national problem, Mexico is a huge mass grave,” said Cruz, who has protection mechanisms from the Mexican government due to death threats for her work.

Even so, from her point of view, it does not seem like government wants to improve the situation, because to date, the collective conducts searches and the bad actions persist, from not investigating to criminalizing relatives and labeling the, criminal groups They disappeared them because they were taking the “wrong path,” she said.

In fact, the budget allocated to the Attorney General’s Office in the first year of government was 16.7 billion pesos ($885 million), and Congress reduced it to 1.5 billion pesos for 2020, which implies fewer resources for federal investigations.

The Mazatlan Post with information from Anadolu

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