Mexican morgues are full of infamy

More than 289,000 people have been killed, and 73,000 disappeared between 2006 and 2019 in Mexico. The publication by "Forensic Crisis" puts out a detailed report on unidentified buried bodies that can give anyone goosebumps.

Geoffrey Pleyers
29 September 2020, 10.27am
Screenshot of the Quinto Elemento Lab's website that presents the "Forensic Crisis" report.

"38 thousand 891 unidentified bodies have passed through one of the country's Forensic Medical Services (Semefo) between 2006 and 2019".

Thirty-eight thousand eight hundred and ninety-one.

The story published by Quinto Elemento Lab it’s truly saddening. Behind each of those 38,891 bodies, there is a family that has suffered from violence and is searching the country's fields and mountains, with the only hope of finding the last whereabouts of their loved one. Semefo has buried 27,271 non-identified bodies alone in common graves.

How many families continue searching for a loved one whose body was buried by the state? Many endanger their lives in the quest, often under the threat of cartels. Every month some even die because they want to know why their brother, daughter, father... did not return home.

Any discussions about the balance of AMLO's government should begin with the data from this document. It was obvious that the government couldn’t solve Mexico's structural problems in two years. What this research by Quinto Elemento Lab makes clear, though, is the lack of government action and attention to such a key and basic issue.

It is inappropriate to speak of any other accomplishment or achievement by a government that, after failing to protect its citizens from violence, cannot identify the dead bodies in the country's morgues.

When the president presents himself every morning as a man of action, repeating his will to change the country for the most humble, how does he explain that the Mexican State is not capable of implementing a simple and fast database system for family members to -at least- know the whereabouts of their relatives?

Mexico is a country with solid institutions and world-class universities, so the problem is not technical or material. Rather, it is a lack of commitment from the government and attention to family members who continue to search for their loved ones, who were unprotected by the government in the first place.

The denial of attention to the victims that has characterized Mexico since 2006 finds its strongest manifestation in this statistic: "There are 6,869 corpses that lack information about the year in which they entered Semefo. In one out of three cases, the experts did not even take the time (or did not have the time) to establish the gender of the deceased".

The failure to identify the dead in government morgues when their relatives are actively searching for them is infamy.

How can they give so little importance to the victims that they don't even take time to record the gender and year of entry into the morgue? What does this say about Mexico and those who governed it from 2006 to today? How do you explain this in a country with such a great organizational capacity and with institutions of importance, like UNAM? After dozens of plans to fight against violence and billions of pesos spent with this proclaimed objective, how do you explain this without mentioning the lack of political will, i.e., to see a problem and not solve it?

It is a failure of itself that the violence has not been stopped yet, but the challenge is great, and the problem profound. It is a tragedy that they have not found all the clandestine graves, but it takes time to dig in the country’s mountains. It is an infamy that the dead in government morgues are not identified when their relatives are searching for them, and shows a lack of empathy and humanity from those who exercise public responsibility at the local, state, or even national level.

Behind each of these bodies, a family has suffered violence and is denied the simple right to know that a loved one has been killed. How can those who govern the country sleep at night when they know that the thousands of families of the missing bodies are still looking for their loved ones and that the bodies have been, in reality, in the state morgues for months?

We will lose our humanity the day we lose the ability to be affected by the victims of violence in Mexico.

We’ve got a newsletter for everyone

Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a free openDemocracy newsletter for you.

Unete a nuestro boletín ¿Qué pasa con la democracia, la participación y derechos humanos en Latinoamérica? Entérate a través de nuestro boletín semanal. Suscribirme al boletín.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData