MEXICO CITY – The government of the central Mexican state of Morelos began on Tuesday the gruesome task of removing bodies from a mass grave said to hold the remains of 35 people.
The project is being managed by the state Attorney General’s Office.
In contrast with the other mass graves discovered in Mexico in recent years, the bodies buried at the clandestine site in the town of Jojutla were put there by the authorities, not organized crime.
Though there is precedent, as authorities were also responsible for the placement of 119 bodies unearthed last year from two mass graves in Tetelcingo, Morelos.
One of the state’s most prominent citizens, acclaimed poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, told EFE that the grave in Jojutla is sure to hold some “disagreeable surprises,” as authorities started dumping bodies at the site in 2011.
Sicilia, leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, became an activist following the 2011 murder of his son.
The families of many Jojutla residents listed as missing “have the hope of finding their loved ones there,” Sicilia said, while criticizing the investigation of the illegal burials as inadequate.
“Only two people are being held responsible” and they are both low-level officials, the activist said.
“The people who are fundamentally responsible, Gov. Graco Ramirez and former Attorney General (Rodrigo) Dorantes, are not being investigated and have not been called to account, and that is serious,” Sicilia said.
Officials will compare the remains removed from the Jojutla grave with roughly 150-200 DNA samples from family members of missing people, current Morelos Attorney General Javier Perez told a press conference.
Families of the missing who have not already provided samples can do so at the excavation site, he said.
Taking part in the Jojutla effort are personnel from the federal Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Police forensics division and the Autonomous University of Morelos (UAEM).
Members of the state human rights panel and Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission will be present throughout the process as observers.
A report published last August by UAEM researchers illustrated how the discovery of the clandestine graves in Tetelcingo uncovered not just grave irregularities committed by the authorities, but what amounted to a procedure for “disappearing” people.
Six of the bodies recovered from Tetelcingo have been identified as people reported as missing.