The Mexican government recently issued a public apology to the families of five young people who were forcibly disappeared in January 2016 in Veracruz. The apology, rare in a country that has historically deviated blame for similar incidents, once again highlights the historical levels of impunity within central institutions.
In the public event, government officials recognized the failure and responsibility of the state in the handling of the disappearance of the five youths. Officials admitted that police officers kidnapped and then turned over the youths to members of the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).
Despite the apology, there is a hollow sentiment of accountability from the victims. In the three years that have passed since the incident occurred, investigations have led to the arrest of 21 suspects. However, not a single conviction has been seen and no senior Veracruz official has even been investigated.
Newly elected governor, Cuitláhuac García, has launched an emergency plan to decrease the number of disappeared and requested help from international organizations to find those missing. According to multiple NGOs, more than 5,000 people have disappeared in Veracruz over the past decade.
InSight Crime Analysis
In the past two decades, cartel violence has left more than 40,000 people missing, with approximately 26,000 unidentified corpses and over 1,100 mass graves. But impunity has reigned throughout the country and investigations have fallen short of bringing justice to the victims and their families.
There are strong similarities between this incident and the most famous such disappearance in recent years, that of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in 2014. The case, which has become a symbol of Mexico’s corruption and impunity, has yet to provide any convictions.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has vowed to re-open the controversial investigation by implementing a truth and justice commission, something that was resisted by the previous administration. López Obrador's proposal aims to clarify this type of human rights crime in which former governments were involved.
Some see the unprecedented apology by government officials in Veracruz as a sign of a possible new era of accountability in Mexico. However, others remain skeptical of false promises and empty apologies. The families of the five youths disappeared are now asking for justice and for those responsible to be convicted for the crimes committed, something that has historically been challenging in Mexico.
The ALMO administration has the tough task to regain much needed public trust between central institutions and the Mexican population. In order to do so, cases such as this one need to result in convictions. If not, the recent apology will simply fall flat.