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Mexico launches unit to find thousands missing

Update: May, 28/2013 - 11:35

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's government has unveiled a new investigative unit to track down thousands of people who have gone missing amid a brutal drug war, in a move warily welcomed by relatives of victims.

Families have pressed authorities for years to find their loved ones and the unit was formed after a dozen mothers held a nine-day hunger strike to force the government to act.

"We want to use all instruments and resources at our disposal on this issue," Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told a news conference.

"We know you have been dissatisfied for a long time," he said to an audience that included relatives of victims who say authorities have shown little interest in investigating cases and have even asked parents to do their own investigative work.

Around 20 relatives of missing people attended the event and shouted at the end of the press conference, "We don't want promises, we want you to act!" and "Where are they, where are they? Where are our children?"

"Hopefully now that they are doing this publicly this will succeed. The truth is that we need it. We need them to get to work for us to get clear answers," said a tearful Maria Herrera, a 64-year-old mother of eight children, including four who went missing in 2008.

The government had vowed earlier this month to create the unit, which will be within the attorney general's office and will increase the number of investigators in charge of missing people from six to 12.

The International Committee of the Red Cross will provide technical assistance.

The presentation came three days after Osorio Chong told foreign journalists that fewer people have disappeared than previously thought because many people simply emigrated or left their homes for personal reasons.

A list compiled by the previous administration found that 26,121 people vanished during the presidency of Felipe Calderon between 2006 and 2012, a period that saw 70,000 people die from drug-related violence.

The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, will release a revised figure in two months, the interior minister said.

Lucia Vaca, who has conducted her own investigation since her 34-year-old son disappeared in the northern city of Monterrey in 2011, said the unit's creation was a "big step."

"We will give them our vote of confidence because if they don't look for them, who will?" she said. "We will force them to work and if we are here today, it is to show that we won't rest until we know where our children are."AFP



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