Spurred by mass abduction, Mexicans scour for remains of their dead

Fri Dec 5, 2014 8:42am EST
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By Anahi Rama and Lizbeth Diaz

IGUALA, Mexico(Reuters) - Terrorized by brutal drug gangs and corrupt police, residents around this town in southwestern Mexico have for years kept silent when relatives disappeared, fearing they would be targeted next if they made a fuss.

Some tried their own low-profile searches, even going to spots where they saw vultures circling above, but most kept quiet and others simply fled the area when they were threatened.

Then, 10 weeks ago, 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police in Iguala and handed over to hitmen from a local gang which the government says murdered and incinerated them.

A groundswell of outrage has since swept Mexico with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets to demand action from a government that has failed to halt the bloodshed or tackle rampant corruption.

In Iguala, the anger is palpable. But something else is happening, too: families of other victims are taking advantage of the sudden arrival of federal police and army troops to go out and search for their missing.

Relatives and friends of around 300 people who since 2008 have "disappeared" - often a euphemism for kidnapped and murdered - have taken up shovels and picks to search for clandestine graves in the hills around the town, a hive of opium and marijuana trafficking.

"The disappearance of the students was the trigger. Many people are still scared but we have to break it for things to change," said Citlali Miranda, a psychologist who is organizing a group of relatives and searching for two of her own cousins.

The group has so far found 16 sets of suspected human remains at sites located via anonymous tip-offs and have handed them over to the attorney general's office for DNA checks.   Continued...

Relatives hold pictures of missing students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College Raul Isidro Burgos, during a demonstration demanding the government find them, on the 40th anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Lucio Cabanas, in Chilpancingo, Guerrero December 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez