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Missing persons in Mexico I: “Paradigm of the Perfect Crime”

by | Aug 16, 2022 | America, Paz, Peace | 0 comments

Missing persons in Mexico I: “Paradigm of the Perfect Crime”

The Sustainable Development Goals and the forced disappearance of persons in Mexico: The “Paradigm of the Perfect Crime”

Sabás Cristóbal García González, cmf

B.A. in Philosophy, Baccalaureate Theology

Master in Human Rights and Peace.

MICLA Solidarity and Mission Team

Claretian Province of Mexico

The United Nations (UN) established August 30 as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Such an event represents the recognition of the decades of the collective struggle of the victims’ relatives and the severe repercussions of such crime in different spheres because the forced disappearance of persons is an atrocious, multi-offensive, continuous, and multiple act that violates human rights. “it constitutes an outrage to human dignity; it is condemned as a denial of the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and as a gross violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 1992, art. 1).

Academic research and an international and national legal framework have been developed around the problem, giving visibility to the crime cataloged as a crime against humanity and criminal responsibility to the States that promote or practice, directly and indirectly, forced disappearance as a mechanism to annul the legal personality of the victims. However, these advances do not mean or guarantee that the atrocious act remains in force in different latitudes of the Latin American continent, especially in Mexico.

“Memory, truth and justice” for the disappeared persons during the “Day of Prayer for peace in Mexico” at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Torreón, Coahuila, (July 2022). Photo: Agato, W. (2022).

In addition to the above, given the importance and urgency of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is worth asking, on the one hand, about the relationship between the forced disappearance of persons and the SDGs, and, on the other hand, about the historical development of this atrocious act in Mexico and the pastoral challenges for the Claretian Missionaries of Mexico concerning this significant problem. Therefore, this paper attempts to respond briefly to the abovementioned two aspects.

First, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that is most closely linked to the enforced disappearance of persons is number 16, which aims to: “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies” and targets explicitly: “16.1. Significantly reduce all forms of violence” and “16.3.

 Accompaniment of Sabás C. García, CMF., to the collective of Families United for Truth and Justice at the inauguration of the mural “Where are our children?”, in the framework of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, (2021, August). Photo: García, S. (2021).

From this aspirational framework, it is feasible to mention that the forced disappearance of persons in Mexico, whose figures reach 100,000 registered persons, represents not only a humanitarian crisis but also a permanent challenge on how to prevent future disappearances of persons; respond to the forensic crisis; guarantee access to justice for the relatives of the victims and favor the continuous search for the disappeared persons. Thus, the findings of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to the Mexican State on the overall situation of disappearances – coupled with ongoing impunity and re-victimization – is not once again the “paradigm of the perfect crime” (UN-DH Mexico, 2021).

Second. Enforced disappearance as a practice to eliminate dissidents of a political, economic, and social model is not a new fact. It reached its systematization during the Nazi regime after the decree Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) that General Wilhelm Keitel applied during the context of the Second World War to annihilate the resistance networks in European countries (Huhle, R., 2019, quoted in UN-DH Mexico and CNDH, 2019). Such an instrument constituted the timely plan because “it contained provisions and protocols of action tending to kidnap and suppress, in secret, and during the night, all those suspected of resistance in the territories of Western Europe occupied by the Third Reich” (Basaure-Miranda, I., 2018, p. 16).

Accompaniment of Sabás C. García, CMF., to the collective of Families United for Truth and Justice at the inauguration of the mural “Where are our children?”, in the framework of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, (2021, August). Photo: García, S. (2021).

In Latin America, the enforced disappearance of persons was structured and extended during the phases of dictatorships between 1960 and 1980 (Basaure-Miranda, I., 2018). In the 1970s, during the Southern Cone dictatorships, the forced disappearance of persons became the very axis of repression (Huhle, R., 2019, cited in UN-DH Mexico and CNDH, 2019).

In the case of Mexico, the forced disappearance of persons is not unrelated to the global context. On the one hand, it began to be systematically rehearsed at the end of the 1960s in the era known as the “dirty war” (Spigno, I., and Zamora, C., 2020). On the other hand, Ovalle C. (2019) documents that forced disappearances in modern Mexico date back at least to the 1940s, which sought to suppress all expressions of nonconformity of specific sectors. Broadly speaking, two significant moments can be distinguished in Mexico: forced disappearances during the “dirty war” (1960-1980 and following years) and the “war against drug trafficking” (2006-2018).

Accompaniment of Sabás C. García, CMF., to the collective of Families United for Truth and Justice in the framework of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, (2021, August). Photo: García, S. (2021).

The systematic nature of forced disappearances in Mexico reveals that it is a complex, continuous, and intentionally diverse problem depending on the historical context. For example, during the “dirty war” the repressive practice became a counterinsurgency strategy that promoted the elimination of people socially constructed as “enemies”: “subversives,” “radicalized”, “communists”, and “guerrillas”. On the other hand, in the course of the “war against drug trafficking,” the disappeared person is not precisely the politicized subject of the “dirty war,” but neither does it exclude him or her.

From this second period onwards, the probability that a person, group, or community will be a victim of forced disappearance is extremely latent. The revictimizing narrative and pejorative neologisms linked to forced disappearances that accompany this stage are: “levantones”, “narcofosas” and terms associated with the forms of violent death of the victims, for example, “encobijados”, “encajuelados”, “baleados”, “ejecutados”, “daños colaterales”, etc. (García, S., 2022).

Accompaniment of Sabás C. García, CMF., to the collective of Families United for Truth and Justice in the framework of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, (2021, August). Photo: Segovia, I. (2021).

Indeed, in recent times (2018…), a new narrative persists -distinct from the period of the “war on drugs” (2006-2018)- regarding the complex problem of the disappearance of persons, as well as legal frameworks, pro-victim institutions and articulated efforts by the State and civil society organizations through the National Search Commission, among other laudable actions. However, despite these initiatives, there are still significant challenges to effectively responding to the demands for justice of the victims’ families.

Sabás Cristóbal García González, cmf

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