Mexico raises 'disappeared' toll to 73,000 amid grinding cartel violence

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico on Monday raised the number of people listed officially as disappeared in the violence-torn country to 73,201, with most of them believed to be victims of brutal drug cartel warfare.

The latest figures, revised from 61,000 in January, paint an ever-grimmer picture of the scale of bloodshed and suffering in Mexico, where a record 34,582 people were murdered last year.

Mexico has been racked by violence for years as successive governments battled vicious drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in a fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting.

The government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised a new strategy after taking power in December 2018 but has struggled to tame the cartel violence – even during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of disappeared was revised after an exhaustive search for cases that were recorded with state prosecutors and local authorities, but which never made it into the national databases, authorities said.

Most victims were disappeared amid an epidemic of violence after the so-called “war on drugs” began in late 2006, data showed. About 1,523 of the cases relate to a period between 1964 to 2005.

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s deputy minister for human rights, said Mexico has since 2006 unearthed 3,978 clandestine graves, from which 6,625 bodies have been exhumed.

Almost 30% of the graves have been discovered during the administration of Lopez Obrador, who has promised to focus on the issue.

Despite Monday’s jump in the total number of disappeared, Encinas said disappearances had declined sharply in the first six months of the year, falling 36.6% compared to the same period last year.

But some of the decline may be due to under-reporting during the pandemic, he added.

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