REYNOSA, Mexico – In the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where the morgues are packed, hundreds of bodies are yet to be identified and the list of missing persons has grown long, family members look for loved ones with the sensation of being alone in a consuming struggle against consigning them to oblivion.
Geovanni Barrios’s son was kidnapped in 2008 in Reynosa, located across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, and identification of the hundreds of bodies in the forensic cemeteries of this border city, one of the most violent in Mexico, has just begun a decade later.
Barrios’s son, whose name is also Geovanni, was taken from a shopping mall by more than 15 people, including organized crime members, traffic police and other security forces personnel.
“They asked for ransom but communication was lost. Even though the investigation is being carried out by the Attorney General’s Office, they are overextended,” Barrios, who is president of the non-governmental Justicia Tamaulipas association, said.
According to Data Civica, another NGO, there are officially more than 34,000 missing persons in Mexico, of whom 5,862 went missing in Tamaulipas and 990 in Reynosa.
The real figure could be higher, as civil society groups speak of 40,000, which includes many Central American migrants who went missing while traveling through Mexico and whose disappearances are seldom reported to authorities; moreover, disappearances are on the rise, Barrios said.
At the end of January, Justicia Tamaulipas organized an event in Reynosa’s central plaza to gather information from missing persons’ family members.
Long lines of people formed, bringing photos and describing the features of their missing loved ones so the NGO, with the help of state authorities, could find possible matches.
One of the main challenges is identifying bodies that are piled up in mass graves, especially since recent DNA tests have not produced the expected results, with a success rate of just 1 percent, Barrios said.
Justicia Tamaulipas estimates there are 3,000 unidentified bodies just in Reynosa.