The Mexican government said on Monday more than 61,000 people had gone missing as a result of the increasingly violent drug war with powerful cartels, 50 percent more than the government previously estimated.
The new figure from the one-year-old administration of Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, compares with about 40,000 missing cited by the government as recently as June.
“The official data of missing persons is 61,637,” Karla Quintana, head of the National Registry of Missing or Missing Persons (RNPED), told a news conference.
She said about a quarter of the missing were women.
More than 97.4 percent of the total have gone missing since 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent the army to the streets to fight drug traffickers, fragmenting the cartels and leading to vicious internal fighting.
AMLO has adopted a policy of “hugs, not bullets” in dealing with violent crime, focussing on addressing inequality and tackling corruption, but the death toll has continued to climb.
The country suffered a record number of homicides in 2019.
Separately, officials said efforts to find the missing had so far uncovered 1,124 corpses in 873 clandestine burial pits.
The country’s National Search Commission said in its first 13 months of work, only about one-third of the bodies found were identified and less than a quarter of the total had been returned to relatives.
The government has set up DNA databases to help identify bodies, but the majority of those found still go unidentified.
Drug and kidnapping gangs often use unmarked pits to dispose of the bodies of their victims or rivals.
The commission said about a third of the corpses it had found were located in just three of the country’s 31 states: the northern state of Sinaloa, the Gulf coast state of Veracruz and the Pacific coast state of Colima.