Jan 18, 2024 - World

Mexico’s search for the disappeared hit by firings

Flyers of missing people in Mexico.

Missing persons reports plastered in Mexico City during a protest against a new government count of forcibly disappeared people, Dec. 21, 2023. Photo: Luis Barrón/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Mexican advocates are accusing the government of hampering progress made to find forcibly disappeared people in the country by firing experts and changing how it counts missing people.

Why it matters: More than 110,000 missing and forcibly disappeared cases have been filed since the 1960s dirty war.

Driving the news: Several experts in Mexico's special commission to search for missing and forcibly disappeared people were fired in the past two weeks.

  • Those sacked include Javier Yankelevich, who was leading a group using artificial intelligence to find those missing. It's unclear whether that project and others used to aid the searches will continue.
  • The government did not publicly say why the experts were sacked. But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has criticized the commission and accused it of acting in bad faith against his administration.

What they're saying: "This apparent restructuring curtails one of the biggest and most serious endeavors that a Mexican government had embarked on for this search... it leaves families and specialized groups in a state of suspense," an advisory committee, the Mecanismo para la verdad y el esclarecimiento histórico, said in a statement Friday after Yankelevich's firing was announced.

The big picture: The recent firings come after López Obrador ordered an audit of the missing persons cases, claiming the number was "inflated."

  • Following the audit, his government last month significantly revised the count of cases of missing people, saying there are just 12,377 confirmed cases — an 88% decrease from earlier estimates by previous government and expert data.
  • NGOs said the revision appeared to be an attempt to obscure the extent of the problem.
  • Some experts in the commission had already handed in their resignations to protest the audit.

The other side: The Ministry of Interior, under which the special search commission operates, said in a statement late Tuesday that the commission will be "strengthened" by recent changes but it did not specify how.

  • It also said search operations "are not at risk."
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