Authorities have reported at least 100 disappearances involving police in the southwest state of Guerrero, Mexico, an indication that the abduction of over 40 students last year, which caused international outrage, was anything but an isolated case.
According to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR), local police kidnapped no less than 100 people over the last two years in Guerrero, including students, women, children, and an African priest, reported Vanguardia. In many instances, police collaborated with criminal groups, according to Vanguardia.
Some of the enforced disappearances ended in murder. Authorities told 24 Horas that reasons for the disappearances included the collection of ransom and extortion fees, as well as victims being killed after they were robbed or subjected to some other crime.
The PGR missing persons unit currently has investigations open for 621 victims of enforced disappearance throughout the country, reported Milenio.
InSight Crime Analysis
As noted by 24 Horas, the key role that local police played in the disappearance and reported massacre of over 40 students last year has drawn attention to the apparent systematic use of enforced disappearance by police not just in Guerrero, but across Mexico. (For a full recap of the missing students case, click through the timeline below.) It is possible that this increased attention on Guerrero may bring some cases involving disappearances to a satisfactory resolution. At least five police officers in Guerrero have reportedly already been convicted of involvement in the disappearance of 12 people, and several more arrest warrants will be issued in the coming weeks, according to 24 Horas.
The high number of disappearances involving Guerrero police highlights another unsettling phenomenon: the deep penetration of criminal groups such as the Guerreros Unidos into Mexican law enforcement. Much of Mexico’s police corruption is concentrated in areas where there is a high presence of organized crime groups, as low police salaries often makes the prospect of working alongside criminal groups a difficult proposition for many officers to pass up.
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For years, Mexico has struggled to reign in its rate of forced disappearances. In 2013, Mexico’s human rights ombudsman announced authorities reported over 26,000 people went missing during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon. International NGOs have also documented the involvement of Mexican security forces in a large percentage of enforced disappearances in the country.