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Baja California parent groups find remote grave site with four bodies in Tecate

Wendy Fry, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

BAJA CALIFORNIA, Mexico -- A collective of parents who search remote areas of Baja California for the remains of their missing children found another burial site in Tecate on Friday with at least four corpses, according to a state official.

It's the third "fosa clandestine" or clandestine grave found in the state since July 11. The discoveries have renewed hope and anger for family members who have lost loved ones in Mexico.

This grave was discovered in far eastern Tecate, west of Mexicali. The remote location was southwest of Rancho Libertad-El Encinal, a small municipality in Tecate, which is east of Campo on the U.S. side of the border.

Juan Maneul Leon Martinez, the state search commissioner, said he could not offer many details about the latest find for the safety of law enforcement and parents. He confirmed the group had discovered four corpses and that the exhumation process was ongoing late Friday afternoon.

Hundreds of family members in Baja California have formed collectives that help each other search remote areas for bodies of the country's "disappeared" -- usually young men in their early 20s who are victims of the nation's soaring cartel-related violence.

At least 10 groups with more than four dozen parents met Wednesday with the state Attorney General's office, pushing for a more streamlined forensic identification process.

Inside a banquet room inside the World Trade Center of Tijuana, many of the parents cried and held banners with photos of their missing children in front of a panel of the state's top law enforcement officials. It included State Attorney General Juan Guillermo Ruiz Hernandez, the state's lead prosecutor, Hiram Sanchez Zamora, and the Commissioner of the State Security and Investigation Guard, Carlos Alberto Flores.

Ruiz, the state Attorney General, made few specific promises Wednesday, saying only vaguely that his office was working to upgrade its forensic processing so the bodies could be identified faster. The parents are waiting on answers for more than two dozen cadavers that have been discovered in recent weeks in remote graves in and around Tijuana.

 

The collectives mostly consist of mothers hoping to find their missing children's remains so they can finally lay them to rest, but fathers and other family members also participate in the searches and collectives.

Grave sites are often discovered after the groups receive anonymous tips -- a system the parents say is necessary because of apathy on the part of public officials.

"The authorities are not investigating. They are not working on our cases. Some of them have the desire to do it, but they don't have the professionalism. They aren't prepared to carry out an investigation like that on a missing persons' case," said Eddy Carrillo, a former San Diego resident who has moved to Tijuana to search full-time for his missing 20-year-old son.

More than 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since the beginning of the country's war against drug cartels, which began in 2006. Many activists say the true death toll could be much larger because victims' families are sometimes hesitant to go the authorities.

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