A mass grave was recently discovered in the Mexican state of Veracruz containing more than 250 human skulls that all appear to have been the victims of cartel violence in recent years.
“For many years, the drug cartels disappeared people and the authorities were complacent,” Jorge Winckler, the state attorney general, said in a television interview with the Televisa network. According to him, the recent discovery of the mass grave speaks directly to the corruption and violence residents of Mexico have had to endure in recent years.
Little is known thus far about the identities of those found in the grave, but Veracruz has been the site of a number of battles between powerful drug cartels in the region. Winckler’s statement indicated that the skulls could potentially have been amassed over years of fighting.
The state attorney general went on to say that Mexican officials are working to tie DNA gathered from the human remains with samples maintained in a database of DNA provided by family members of missing persons in the country. Thus far, only a police detective and his assistant have been successfully identified.
“I cannot imagine how many more people are illegally buried there,” Winckler said of the region before noting the state has reports of about 2,400 people who are still missing. “Veracruz is an enormous mass grave.”
Thus far only about a third of the gravesite has been processed.
Although Winckler did not reveal how or exactly when the mass grave was discovered, this is not the first site discovered in the Mexican state that contains the remains of enemies of the cartels. Members of Colectivo Solecito, a group of women that organized in search of their missing children, discovered a similar grave in Veracruz in August. Altogether, one hundred and twenty-five mass graves have been discovered over the past eight months in a region of Mexico known as Colinas de Santa Fe.
According to sources within Colectivo Solecito, members of the group had gathered in a street protest on Mother’s Day last year when they were approached by members of a cartel that provided them with a map indicating where they could find the graves. The group immediately began raising money to finance their search and to rent excavating equipment by holding bake sales and raffles. Their efforts proved fruitful, as a great deal of the recent grave discoveries were thanks to the direct effort or support of the group.
“We dig holes, but we try not to touch the remains,” Lucía Diaz, a spokeswoman for the group, told reporters. She then added that doing so could compromise DNA that could be used to identify the bodies once they’ve been unearthed.
“Some of the bodies had a lot of connective tissue. You could see an ear, or recognize part of a face,” she said.
Among the remains discovered by Colectivo Solecito were bodies of a former state prosecutor and his secretary. The two were kidnapped by police officers working for the cartels in 2013 and never seen again.
“What we have found is abominable and it reveals the state of corruption, violence and impunity that reigns not only in Veracruz, but in all of Mexico,” Diaz said. “A reality that speaks of the collusion of authorities with organized crime in Veracruz, for it is impossible to see what we found without the participation of authorities,” she added.
The former governor of the region, Javier Duarte, resigned from office two months before his term was to end and disappeared. If found, he faces charges of money laundering and organized crime. According to Winckler, DNA evidence tied to his case has since gone missing.
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