A year-end report by Mexico's government registered a figure of 95,000 missing persons nationwide, with an estimated 52,000 unidentified bodies buried in mass graves. The report by the Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas (National Missing Persons Search Commission) found that the great majority of the disappearances have taken place since 2007, when Mexico began a military crackdown on the drug cartels. Alejandro Encinas, the assistant interior secretary for human rights, said that there are 9,400 unidentified bodies in cold-storage rooms in the country, and pledged to form a National Center for Human Identification tasked with forensic work on these remains. He admitted to a "forensic crisis that has lead to a situation where we don't have the ability to guarantee the identification of people and return [of remains] to their families."
Two months into his term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to his country's "war on drugs," announcing that the army would no longer prioritize capturing cartel bosses. The new populist president made his declaration Jan. 30, at the end of his second month in office. He told gathered reporters at a press conference that the "guerra contra el narcotráfico," launched in 2006 by then-president Felipe Calderón, has come to and end. "Officially now, there is no war; we are going to prusue peace," he said.
On Jan. 24 the government of the north-central Mexican state of Zacatecas sent about 200 riot and ministerial police to remove some 30 campesinos and their relatives from an entrance they were blocking to the Peñasquito open-pit gold mine in Mazapil municipality. Campesinos from the Las Mesas ejido (communal farm) and the Cedros annex began blocking the entrance on Jan. 16 to get attention from state and federal authorities for their demand to reopen negotiations with the mine's owner, the Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., about the rent the company is paying to use ejido land. In addition to removing the protesters, the police arrested two campesino leaders, the brothers Epifanio and Mónico Morquecho, and took them to the prison in Concepción del Oro municipality, 40 km away; they were charged with damages, looting and extortion, based on a criminal complaint from Goldcorp.
A new report highlighting Mexico's human rights crisis finds that security forces have taken part in many kidnappings and disappearances over the six-year term of President Felipe Calderón, with the government failing to investigate most cases. Despite some controversy over the numbers, an estimated 70,000 are believed to have met violent deaths under Calderón's militarized crackdown on the cartels. But the new report, released by Human Rights Watch Feb. 20, finds that on top of this figure, possibly more than 20,000 disappeared during Calderón's term. Many were abducted by narco gangs, but all state security forces—the military, federal and local police—are also accused in "the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades."
Ejidatarios (communal peasants) from the community of Salaverna, in Mexico's north-central Zacatecas state, have partially shut operations at a gold mine owned by magnate Carlos Slim, in protest over the destruction of natural resources and health risks to local residents, according to Edith Ortega González, local director of the activist network El Barzón. Ortega said six of the campesinos have formed a permanent plantón, or protest vigil, at the gates of the Frisco Tayahua mine, "in defense of their land." She said state and federal authorities had "abandoned" the community, in Mazapil municipality, while dynamite explosions and other mining activity cause landslides on the slopes above the ejido (communal land-holding). Several homes were damaged in a Dec. 6 landslide, and the mining operations have also released toxic gases, Ortega said. The explosions in the area remain ongoing. Ortega added that there is a title despute to the land-holding, and many of the campesinos have already abandoned the ejido. The 40 or so who remain "run the risk of being violently evicted by the company's gunmen." (OCMAL, Dec. 26)