Federal authorities in Mexico have reportedly captured a leading suspect implicated in last year's disappearance of 43 college students in the state of Guerrero.
Although this is an important development in the case that triggered international outrage, this controversy involving unsolved disappearances in Mexico is just the tip of the iceberg.
On Sept. 26, 2014, three busloads of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School organized a peaceful sit-in in the city of Iguala, where María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, wife of the city’s Mayor José Luis Abarca, was giving a speech.
The students were protesting against educational reforms that could potentially raise fees and make it impossible for them to afford school. Matters took an ugly turn after the police – allegedly on the mayor’s orders – opened fire on the demonstrators, killing three students and three bystanders.
In the aftermath, 43 activists disappeared and it was later revealed they were attacked and killed by cartel officers with the aid of corrupt municipal officers.
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As the search continued for the students’ corpses, the bodies of at least 129 other murder victims were unearthed in mass graves in Guerrero, further fueling anti-government sentiment over failure to explain all the inexplicable disappearances and murders.
Earlier in February, a damning BuzzFeed report also highlighted the epidemic of disappearances in the country. More than 60 lawyers were killed or disappeared in Mexico’s northern state of Durango during a wave of violence against litigators that began in 2008.
“…Some in Durango whose loved ones are among the 23,689 people currently on the national missing persons registry say they feel that their plight has gone entirely unnoticed by both the government and society. Unlike the families of the 43 disappeared students, there has been no cohesion among the relatives of the missing or murdered lawyers, forcing each to deal with their despair in isolation,” BuzzFeed found.
In the three weeks between June and July, at least six health care professionals were killed, wounded, or abducted – including a renowned surgeon who was shot in the state of Morelos, according to The Daily Beast.
The BBC reported thousands of women and girls disappear in Mexico every year while “many are never seen alive again.” According to a recent AP investigations, since 2007, more than 25,000 people have inexplicably gone missing across the country.
While the pain of losing loved ones is there, government inaction among citizens has further fueled resentment against Mexican authorities, especially the army, which is rumored to “enforce disappearances.” But anger or short-lived protests have not been able to attract significant international support.
As the world’s focus remains fixed on the refugee crisis in Europe, it is equally important for the international community to hold the Mexican government accountable for the disappearances. The victims’ families deserve answers. They deserve justice.