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News > Latin America

Mass Graves Continue to be Unearthed in Veracruz Mexico

  • A demonstrator in Mexico City holds a sign that reads,

    A demonstrator in Mexico City holds a sign that reads, "Forced disappearance, terror strategy.” | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 September 2016

Citizens and activists have spoken out again the practice of forced disappearance and targeted assassinations, common in the state of Veracruz.

A group of citizens dedicated to finding people who have been forcibly disappeared in the Mexican state of Veracruz said they had found 75 mass graves since their search begun a month ago and called on authorities to force several officials to testify, including notorious outgoing governor Javier Duarte.

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The group, known as the Solecito Collective, began searching an area known as Colinas de Santa Fe near the capital after being tipped off that organized crime groups were using it to bury bodies.

Lucia de los Angeles Garcia Henao, the coordinator of the group told La Jornada that area was an enormous cemetery, with each of the 75 graves containing at least three bodies.

The group has called for state Attorney General Luis Angel Bravo Contreras, former state Attorney General Amadeo Flores Espinoza, former head of state security Arturo Bermudez Zurita, and Governor Javier Duarte to be called to testify before the state and federal congress. 

“We want them to present themselves, show their faces, and explain: How can they justify the existence of a clandestine cemetery in a city like the port of Veracruz? Some bodies are recent and others have a little more time, the aforementioned were in charge of state security and law enforcement at the time,” said de los Angeles.

She added that the area where the graves were found is not a rural or isolated area and that as a result, state officials “must have had knowledge of what happened there.”

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Meanwhile, another group of citizens searching for a woman forcibly disappeared in 2011 discovered that a mass grave in a cemetery in the Veracruz capital of Xalapa contained 192 unidentified bodies.

The bodies were buried there by the Veracruz Office of the Attorney General themselves, though apparently without any regard to policies and procedures. 

The 192 were never properly identified. Relatives of Gemma Mavil Hernandez have exhumed the mass grave on three occasions in an effort to find her remains, though they have yet to be found.

Part of the issue is that a number of years ago, a portion of the cemetery was sold to family. Three unidentified bodies not belonging to the family were uncovered during the most recent exhumation. 

The state of Veracruz has won an unsavory reputation for its high levels of crime. The outgoing governor, Javier Duarte, is reguarly accused of having links to organized crime, though he has not been charged in connection to those accusations. Duarte is, however, under investigation for diversion of resources and illicit enrichment.

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