(AFP) – Mexico said Tuesday that more than 26,000 people went missing during former president Felipe Calderon’s 2006-2012 tenure, which was dominated by the country’s spiraling drug war.
The latest statistics were announced a week after Human Rights Watch said Mexican security forces were not properly investigated in at least 249 “disappearances” that occurred during the same period.
Lia Limon, head of the interior ministry’s human rights unit, told a press conference the ministry had 26,121 records of people who went missing from December 2006 to November 2012, without specifying the cause of the incidents.
The database does not “pre-judge” the cause of the disappearances, which are “not necessarily related to criminal acts,” she said.
Limon said authorities would examine the records to determine which cases are linked to illegal acts in a joint effort with tax collectors, who want to ascertain whether anyone declared missing has “returned home.”
She added that individuals may have gone missing because of immigration or natural disasters.
Calderon deployed the military to battle the country’s increasingly powerful and brutal drug cartels in 2006, leading to an escalation in violence that has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people since then.
Human Rights Watch said the 249 people who went missing are presumed dead.
The rights monitor said in its 193-page report last week that security forces had been involved in disappearances since 2007 and called on the country’s new government to account for the missing.
It said that in more than 140 of the cases, “evidence suggests that these were enforced disappearances” with state agents directly or indirectly participating in the disappearances, sometimes on behalf of organized crime.
The report warned that after 2007 there may have been thousands of other enforced disappearances, citing government documents leaked to local media which estimate the number at up to 25,000.
President Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party took power in Mexico on December 1.
The new leader has said he wants to change the military’s role in fighting organized crime, but has yet to outline his overall strategy.