Skip to main content

Mexico reports more than 26,000 missing

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 8:00 AM EST, Wed February 27, 2013
Ana Maria Maldonado stands by a banner for her missing son during a protestlast November in Mexico City.
Ana Maria Maldonado stands by a banner for her missing son during a protestlast November in Mexico City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mexico's interior minister says 26,121 people disappeared from 2006-2012
  • It's unclear how many of the disappearances are connected with organized crime
  • Official: Locating people "is a priority for this government"

(CNN) -- More than 26,000 people have gone missing in Mexico over the past six years as violence surged and the country's government cracked down on drug cartels.

Mexico's Interior Ministry announced the staggering statistic on Tuesday but noted that authorities don't have data about how many of the disappearances are connected with organized crime.

The 26,121 disappearances occurred during former President Felipe Calderon's six-year administration, which ended on December 1 when Enrique Pena Nieto assumed the presidency.

Pena Nieto's government has formed a special working group to focus on finding the missing, said Lia Limon, deputy secretary of legal matters and human rights for Mexico's Interior Ministry.

Locating people "is a priority for this government," Limon told reporters.

The release of the government statistics Tuesday comes several days after a report from Human Rights Watch said Mexican security forces were connected with the disappearances of at least 149 people during Calderon's tenure.

Are armed forces behind disappearances?
Community police take on Mexican cartels

"President Pena Nieto has inherited one of worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America," Jose Miguel Vivanco, the organization's Americas director, said in a statement.

In the northern Mexican state of Coahuila alone, officials reported nearly 2,000 disappearances between 2006 and 2012, Human Rights Watch said.

Rights groups and activists have long said that forced disappearances are among the most troubling problems Mexico faces and have cautioned that reliable statistics are hard to come by because many such cases are unreported.

The human toll of Mexico's drug war

Limon said Tuesday that the data federal authorities have don't specify what caused the disappearances. She said the list could include people who have emigrated out of the country or fled because of family conflicts, in addition to people who were kidnapped.

Authorities will need several weeks to release data about the number of disappearances since Pena Nieto took office, she said, due to "inconsistencies" in the data.

Critics have accused Mexico's government of not doing enough to find the missing and punish those responsible.

In many instances, families frustrated with a sluggish response from authorities have searched themselves for missing loved ones.

Read more: The 'open wounds' of Mexico's drug war

In October 2011, Calderon said the "very high" number of missing people was a growing concern. He listed them among the victims of violence that he described as "open wounds" in Mexican society.

"We don't know the size of the problem," the president said during a speech inaugurating a new prosecutor's office aimed at helping victims.

Human Rights Watch said last week that it sees a ray of hope in the new administration.

"The Pena Nieto government has been very open so far about acknowledging the scale of the problem and the work that remains for them," said Nik Steinberg, a Mexico researcher for the organization. "The real question will be: are they ready to investigate and prosecute these cases?"

Mexican blogger vows to fight despite threats

CNNMexico's Mauricio Torres and CNN's Rey Rodriguez, Rene Hernandez, Rafael Romo and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It was supposed to be a class trip to a resort island. Instead, the ferry capsized, turning the afternoon into a deadly nightmare.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It's hard not to be nervous, standing outside the Ebola isolation wards.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Ukraine says it's forces have regained control of an airfield from Russian separatists. Nick Paton Walsh reports.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis".
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sky gazers caught a glimpse of the "blood moon" crossing the Earth's shadow Tuesday in all its splendor.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
A staff stands next to the propellers of Sun-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 HB-SIB seen in silhouette during its first exit for test on April 14, 2014 in Payerne, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight. Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
This solar-powered aircraft will attempt to circle the globe next year.
ADVERTISEMENT