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Kidnap victims’ relatives condemn insensitive authorities

August 21, 2013

On Saturday, July 6, four youths went out to attend a party in the town of Lagos de Moreno and never came back.

Two teenagers also disappeared on the way to a different party in the same town that night, while another local had gone missing on June 26. These were merely the latest in a long list of abductions in Lagos de Moreno, which only last year was designated one of Mexico’s beloved “pueblos magicos.”

Last week, the Jalisco Prosecutor’s Office (FGE) identified the bodies of four of the young men who were kidnapped in the early hours of July 7. Two of the bodies were discovered at a landfill site on August 3, while two others had been found at a nearby farm two weeks earlier. In total, the FGE has recovered at least eight bodies but it is still working to identify the remaining victims as their corpses had been at least partially dissolved in acid.

After weeks of desperation, the distraught family members were finally notified on August 14 and the following day they were handed their loved ones’ ashes in urns bearing the state government logo. The use of the logo was widely condemned in the local community which deemed it particularly insensitive, as if the authorities were boasting at having solved the case.

Following a memorial service last Friday, the relatives, who complained that they had not been kept updated on the progress of the investigation, were asked to sign death certificates which did not even state the victims’ cause of death. Nor were they provided with DNA evidence to prove that the ashes they had been given were indeed those of their loved ones.

FGE Director Luis Carlos Najera said the work of the forensic experts had been complicated because the bodies were found in an advanced state of decomposition, exacerbated by the chemicals that the criminals had used in an attempt to dissolve the remains. Najera then compounded the families’ suffering by implying that the victims had been kidnapped in revenge for stealing two bags containing money and drugs.

“(The authorities) just hide their ineffectiveness by criminalizing the young people who disappeared,” responded Roberto Castelan, a local academic from the University of Guadalajara, who has been serving as a spokesman for the victims’ relatives.

The families, who have received support from the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, proceeded to issue a statement expressing their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the FGE.

“The authorities have been clearly remiss in fulfilling the provisions of Article 21 of the General Victims’ Law, which among other things gives us the right to be actively involved in the search for the truth, to be present at the exhumation, to be informed about the protocols and procedures to be applied and to appoint independent experts,” the statement read.

The FGE’s regional delegate, Salvador Gonzalez de los Santos, later elaborated – with a less accusatory tone – on the theory behind the latest spate of kidnappings.

The victims were abducted, he said, because local members of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) had misplaced a briefcase containing valuable items and assumed someone had stolen it. They carried out the kidnappings in a bid to recover the case, but de los Santos made clear that there was no evidence that the victims had any involvement with the criminals.

The FGE rounded up six suspects in Lagos de Moreno, although two have since been released as their participation in the abductions could not be proved. Two other alleged members of the CJNG have also been arrested in Guadalajara in connection with the case. They were found in possession of AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles and 400 rounds of ammunition.

The FGE said it is still searching for another four or five members of the criminal cell suspected of involvement in the killings. Meanwhile, the nightmare continues for the families of the three victims yet to be located.

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