The extermination sites that proliferate in Mexico
In Guadalajara, the horror has increased in recent months. There, any home can be used to make people disappear. The location of these sites increased more than 150% in 2019, compared to the farms located in 2018, while reports of missing persons exceeded 200% in the same period.
At dawn on May 2, 2019, “Pedro” fell into a swoon at a crossroads near the center of Guadalajara, in western Mexico. His body reflected wounds caused by a knife from which blood emanated, which mixed with the sweat produced by the agitation when running at the speed allowed by the legs of the place where he had been captive.
A kilometer and a half separated him from the house located on Río Bravo street, where 30 hours later they released another nine people. Seven more had been buried in the garden.
This story is part of an investigation carried out by ZonaDocs, in alliance with the Latin American journalism platform CONNECTS, and the support of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and shows how Guadalajara has experienced an escalation of terror in recent years.
The farm where “Pedro” escaped is part of the 28 localized that were located in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (ZMG) in 2019, and which are now known as “extermination sites”. This concept is a redefinition of the families of disappeared persons in Mexico to “account for the multiplicity of mechanisms for the elimination and treatment of human remains and bodies,” as Carolina Robledo, coordinator of the Social and Forensic Anthropology Research Group, refers to.
They are called “extermination” because it is where people illegally deprived of their freedom are held captive, they are subjected to physical torture in conditions of hunger, and many times they are murdered, condemned to be buried clandestinely in a grave or cohabit with decomposing bodies.
The site of La Estancia, in addition to extermination, served as a transit point for missing persons in 2019. Photo: Fabricio Atilano
The location of these sites increased by 154% in 2019, compared to the farms located in 2018. Likewise, there was a 700% increase in the number of discoveries of body segments in plastic bags, which reflects the sophistication in the technique of the violence in the middle of a criminal confrontation that has exposed the population of this metropolis.
Also during 2019, 466 people were murdered and located on public roads in the nine municipalities that make up the ZMG. Of these, 137 showed signs of torture, and at least 70 were tied, as reported by the authorities when they found people deprived of their liberty in the extermination sites at the time of their location.
According to the investigations of Carolina Robledo, this type of body management mechanism and the excess exposure of the crimes of extermination “reveal signs of enormous cruelty that is not only exerted on the bodies but is also exerted on the entire population thanks to to the terror facility ”.
Along with the proliferation of sites, Jalisco was cataloged by federal authorities as the state with the highest number of missing persons in 2019. Only in the first four months, reports of missing persons increased 227% with respect to the same period of 2018, according to data from the National Registry of Missing and Uncharted Persons (RNPDNO), administered by federal authorities of the National Search Commission.
This crisis in the matter of disappeared persons that the state government of Jalisco went through was contained, according to various sources consulted for this investigation, through an operation to eliminate missing persons figures.
The order was given by the state prosecutor, Gerardo Octavio Solís Gómez, to the special prosecutor Blanca Jaqueline Trujillo Cuevas, appointed in January of that year. The persons in charge carried out call operations, but when they did not answer the calls, the investigation folder was removed. This is revealed by former officials of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Missing Persons and other officials of the current Government of Jalisco, whose names were reserved for their safety.
With this operation, the number of people located increased enormously in the Information System on Victims of Disappearance, a state platform launched in March 2019 to “speak the truth,” according to the explanation of the governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro Ramírez.
However, the families of missing persons in the entity have indicated their distrust of this registry, given the incidence of cases that arrive every day to be reported and because they have highlighted that they know that not all the folders are included in that registry.
Faced with the uncertainty in the figures and the proliferation of death sites, the search groups in Jalisco have called on society to anonymously denounce the violence and locate more death sites. With this, they hope to find their missing relative, asking that they “return in whatever conditions they may be, but to know where they are,” as Mónica, a member of the group of relatives of disappeared persons, Por Amor a Ellxs said.
If you want to see learn more about this research enter here.
* This research was carried out by Jonathan Ávila, Francisco Campos, Darwin Franco, and Dalia Souza to ZonaDocs within the framework of the Initiative for Investigative Journalism of the Americas, of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), in alliance with CONNECTS.