Between June and September 2017, 39 men and 8 women from Tepic (Nayarit) disappeared. They worked as mechanics, bricklayers, as well as carpenters and welders. The youngest was 23 years old, the oldest 53. During those summer months, men in uniforms and weapons from the State Attorney’s Office broke into their homes and workplaces, while they were walking down the street, and took them away in vehicles. that corresponded to the investigative arm of the Government, according to a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), presented this Tuesday. The organization has documented the 47 cases and accuses the Nayarit Prosecutor’s Office of crimes against humanity. In the following years, the bodies of 25 of the disappeared were found in mass graves. The rest are still sought by their families.
“During four months a systematic and organized attack was committed against a part of the civilian population. The cases were carried out in a very similar way: with kidnappings, cars, suits and weapons of the public force, ”Jimena Reyes, FIDH director for America, explains by phone to EL PAÍS. The organization has documented more than 70 cases of forced disappearances, and in these 47 it has found overwhelming evidence of the participation of the Nayarit Prosecutor’s Office. With these data, he has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a preliminary examination in Mexico and investigate the crimes.
“They disappeared my brother in July 2017. They sent me to the Prosecutor’s Office: ‘Wow, they will have him there’. But I received a resounding no, the Prosecutor’s Office laughed at me, victimized me, put labels on my brother … For us, the most important thing was his life, “said a woman from Nayarit on Tuesday in an intervention by videoconference without name or image to protect your safety. The following stories match and complement each other: the relatives of the disappeared came together to try to pressure the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the crimes, marched and met with senior officials. They got nothing. “They took our children and the State Attorney’s Office has treated us like garbage. They have laughed at us. But they are not going to take away our dignity, our priority is that justice is done to them, ”said another woman.
Nestled in the Mexican Pacific, Nayarit was governed between 2011 and 2017 by Roberto Sandoval, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who on June 6 was arrested for corruption after being a fugitive from justice. Under the Sandoval Administration, the prosecutor of this small state of 1.2 million inhabitants was Édgar Veytia, sentenced in 2019 to 20 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking.
The report prepared by FIDH establishes that both public officials created a criminal structure within the Government. Citizens were extorted, property, tortured and disappeared. In addition, in exchange for bribes, they made themselves available to cartels such as the Zetas, then the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, the Beltrán Leyva (and their Nayarit cell, the Hs) or the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG). At times they worked with more than one group at the same time. “They transformed Nayarit into an operation center for the production of synthetic drugs and their trafficking,” the FIDH document reads.
In March 2017, prosecutor Veytia, known as La Bestia, was arrested in San Diego (California). A few months later, on June 5, Sandoval lost the state elections. In this context of transition to a new management team in Nayarit, the 47 forced disappearances are framed. “The main hypothesis is that the elections are lost and a rearrangement of forces begins. There is a desire to terrorize the population, to maintain territorial control over crime and drug trafficking ”, points out the director of FIDH.
The organization’s report assures that the disappearances are carried out with elements and resources of the State: “Although former prosecutor Edgar Veytia was detained in the United States, the criminal structure of the Nayarit Attorney General’s Office, consolidated during the previous six years , continues to operate and carry out the crimes, which intensify during the last months of Sandoval’s mandate ”.
The FIDH identified 26 events between June 12 and September 23. Most (22) occurred in Tepic, the state capital, but others were in neighboring towns such as Francisco Madero, Santiago Ixcuintla and San Blas.
On June 17, 2017, six hooded individuals, who came in two vans from the Nayarit Prosecutor’s Office, one black and the other white, took a man from Tepic at gunpoint. His body was found in a clandestine grave in Xalisco in January 2018, along with 17 other individuals. On September 23, a man and two women were taken to a detention center, the exact location of which is unknown. They were beaten and raped. None of the three have been heard from again.
In these four years, some progress has been made: the UN has urged the Government to investigate these disappearances and the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has gone to Nayarit and has taken some of the cases at the federal level. However, a large number of the families remain unaware of their disappeared. “We feel as lost again as the day they were taken away. The FGR treats us with education, but that no longer interests us ”.
In addition, Jimena Reyes explains that during this time some defenders have been harassed and even one of the members of the search committee, Santiago Pérez Becerra, whose son is missing, has been jailed. The Secretary of Public Security in 2018, Javier Herrera Valles, acknowledged that there were still people from that time infiltrated in the Prosecutor’s Office. “We think that the criminal structure is not as strong as it was in 2017, but there are events like the one in Santiago and that infiltrated people continue. We urge that a purge be carried out ”, points out the director of FIDH.
Meanwhile, the tireless struggle of the families continues. “I am the mother of a missing person. My son had only arrived in Nayarit for three months, with the dream of studying gastronomy, “says a woman this Tuesday,” I stayed in Tepic to look for my son and I lost my job, but I continue to fight for justice. “
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