Apr 28, 2022 - World

Mexican moms searching for their missing children increasingly in danger

Mexican women who search for their missing loved ones are pictured hiking through a grassy area while carrying shovels

Members of the Madres Buscadoras de Sonora on a search last year. Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images

Mexican moms tired of government inaction have taken on searching for their missing loved ones, even as that increasingly places them in danger.

State of play: Mexico has nearly 100,000 disappeared and missing people, government data from police reports shows, though the real number is likely higher. Family members of the missing say there is no option but to search themselves, accusing the government of inaction.

  • Mothers of the disappeared have formed collectives called Madres Buscadoras in various states, developing best practices on the fly. For example, they stick a pole in the ground, and if it smells of decomposition when it comes out, that means there could be remains buried there, so they dig.

Driving the news: Last week, someone attempted to break into the safe house where Cecilia Patricia Flores, founder of the Madres Buscadoras in Sonora state, was staying.

  • “Before, I’d felt threatened, but from phone call harassment or social media attacks. Something this direct hadn’t happened before,” Flores, who has two missing sons, tells Axios Latino.
  • Other women have been killed while searching for their children.

Between the lines: Government officials and criminal groups are behind most disappearances, according to a recent report from the UN’s Committee on Forced Disappearances.

  • Some groups have given the moms tips on where bodies might be located, like in Veracruz, when, on Mother's Day 2016, a group of searchers were given a hand-drawn map of where remains had been buried.

Authorities acknowledge they can’t keep up, saying they lack enough staff and equipment to conduct extensive searches.

  • The head of the Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda (commission in charge of missing people searches) recently wrote that forensic services are “completely overrun” in trying to find remains and identify those they have found as the list of the missing keeps growing.

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