Mothers searching for the bodies of their loved ones in Mexico continue to be killed, exposing President López Obrador for failing to honor a pledge to protect them.
At least one organization of women searching for their relatives has suspended its operations after the assassination of one of their members, according to a new investigation published on October 19 by La Lista, a Mexican news organization.
Others continue to be killed with impunity.
On October 4, Blanca Esmeralda Gallardo was shot dead by armed assailants near the Central Market in Mexico’s central city of Puebla. She was killed in the same neighborhood where her daughter, Betzabé, disappeared along with a friend in 2021.
Gallardo suspected her daughter had been victim to a human trafficking ring operating in Puebla and the nearby state of Tlaxcala. Local media reports, however, have attributed both crimes to a local drug trafficking gang.
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At least four such women, known as madres buscadoras (searching mothers), have been killed since the beginning of 2022. Seven madres buscadoras have been murdered since López Obrador took office and at least 15 since this type of crime began to be tracked in 2010.
In 2019, facing a crisis of forced disappearances and kidnappings in the country, López Obrador pledged an “unlimited budget” to help find thousands of missing bodies and identify those which were found.
But this has not materialized. Under López Obrador, the number of disappeared and missing people in Mexico climbed to over 105,000 and the mothers’ associations feel they have been abandoned by the authorities.
“It is easy for a government to promise things that they simply cannot deliver. Even if they could, they wouldn’t do it,” said Lucy Díaz Genao, director of the Solecitos Collective which searches for missing people in Veracruz, in an interview with InSight Crime.
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The murder of Blanca Esmeralda Gallardo serves as further evidence that López Obrador’s promises have not been met.
It has taken public attention to spur the president into action. In January, after madres buscadoras in the northern state of Sonora released a video on Twitter addressing local cartels and requesting that they be allowed to search without being attacked, López Obrador demanded that the state government help protect organizations searching for missing relatives.
Such help never came. In October, one mother in Sonora, Cecilia Flores, had to call off the search for her son after receiving multiple death threats.
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Furthermore, even when the mothers have turned up useful information, they reported a lack of progress from authorities. Before her death, Gallardo had repeatedly shared updates relating to the disappearance of her daughter. She was ignored.
“In matters of investigation, delivering justice, accountability, there has not been an iota of progress,” said Díaz about how the situation has progressed.
“At this time, this is not a priority for the government,” she concluded.