Jalisco has opened a special prosecutor’s office to investigate cases of missing persons – the first state in Mexico to do so.
The Fiscalía Especializada en Personas Desaparecidas will be headed by María Teresa Medina Villalobos, a lawyer who will lead a team of 106 agents and public officials.
“Our chief tasks will be the search for, investigation and localization of victims, as well as attending to their families,” she said.
According to the most recent data, around 2,700 people are listed as missing in Jalisco – the third highest number in Mexico behind Tamaulipas and Estado de Mexico.
The new office also has a brief that includes consultation with NGOs representing victims’ families, in addition to obtaining the input of specialized experts, human rights organizations, academics and other international institutions working in the field.
Families of victims have been highly critical of the efforts of the Jalisco Attorney General’s Office (FGE) to locate their missing relatives and resent the dearth of information made available to them regarding the investigations.
One of their chief complaints has been the reluctance of authorities to release DNA samples of unidentified and unclaimed bodies at the state morgue, so they can be matched up with missing persons.
Some NGOs say the situation is much worse than the government admits and the number of missing persons is more likely above 4,000. “Por Amor a Ellxs” reckons around seven people go missing on a daily basis. They say they have identified the most likely profile of victims: men and women aged between 18 and 30, with at a high school eduction and with no links to organized crime. This may come as a surprise to many Mexicans, who are often led to believe the vast majority of missing persons cases are related to organized crime.
According to Amor a Ellxs representative Esperanza Chávez, under current legislation and budgeting, the FGE doesn’t have the resources to adequately investigate missing persons and hopes the new office won’t be a “simulation.” The state government must provide proper support and push the state Congress to pass a new Ley de Victimas, she said.
Governor Aristoteles Sandoval expressed his pride that Jalisco has taken the lead in creating a dedicated office to investigating missing persons. “It will make me even prouder when we start to see results,” he added.