25,000 Went Missing During Mexico's Drug War

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 30 2012 11:26 AM

"His Wife Went To Buy Medicine and Disappeared"

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Mexican soldiers patro the area after finding a clandestine chemical drug processing laboratory in a cave in the mountains of Yahualica, Jalisco State, on November 21, 2012

Photo by Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images.

Some Mexican bureaucrats are so frustrated with their government's apparent lack of transparency and failure to investigate missing persons cases in the country that they've leaked a list from the attorney general with details of over 25,000 missing adults and children over the past six years. Yes, 25,000.

As Mexican President Felipe Calderón prepares to leave office at the end of his six-year term on Saturday, the number appears to be a referendum for critics on his administration's U.S.-backed war on drug trafficking amidst skyrocketing violence in the country. Calderón has defended his legacy on his way out the door, saying that the war was necessary, as CNN explains.

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Here's the Washington Post with more on the list:

The names on the list—many more than in previous, nongovernment estimates—are recorded in Microsoft Excel columns, along with the dates they disappeared, their ages, the clothes they were wearing, their jobs and a few brief, often chilling, details: "His wife went to buy medicine and disappeared," reads one typical entry.

As the Post explains, the list is probably imprecise. In a country where only 8 percent of crimes are reported and one percent are investigated, it's likely that some missing persons have returned home, while others were never reported in the first place. But despite its imprecision, the leaked list seems to confirm that the government has been less than forthcoming about the toll of the war on drugs.

Earlier in November, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (a government entity that functions similarly to an ombudsman) released figures showing 2,126 "forced disappearances" and 46,015 murders linked to the crime wave, as Fox News Latino reported. Some, as reported by TruthOut, put the number of dead as high as 120,000.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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