Corruption and drug-related violence in Mexico are not new phenomena, nor is the relationship between the two new. According to the BBC, conservative estimates of drug-related deaths in Mexico are at about 23,000 people for the year of 2016. However, this total is likely to continue rising, as more mass graves of individuals that were likely killed because of organized crime and drug violence are found.
On March 14, 2017, 250 skulls were found at a mass grave site in Veracruz, Mexico. State prosecutor Jorge Winckler blamed the violence on organized crime, but indicated that the violence was also a result of the fugitive, former state governor, Javier Duarte. Winckler intimated that Duarte had not done enough to investigate disappearances reported in Veracruz. Duarte stepped down as state governor in early October 2016, but has evaded authorities ever since. If he is captured, he will be tried for accusations of corruption.
On March 20, 2017, another mass grave was unearthed in Veracruz where a further 47 skulls were found. Again, the state prosecutor attributed these deaths to drug trafficking and reiterated that mass graves would continue to be found as the previous governor had done nothing to investigate disappearances, much less address their root causes.
Officials in Veracruz, and in other Mexican states like Guerrero, have not taken serious action in investigating disappearances and discovered bodies. As a result, individual civilians have taken it upon themselves to investigate the deaths of their loved ones to end the widespread impunity on behalf of the Mexican state.
Miriam Rodríguez Martínez was one such individual. Rodríguez dedicated her life to investigating these disappearances. She headed a local non-governmental organization called Citizen Community in Search of the Disappeared in Tamaulipas. Rodríguez lost her daughter, Karen Alejandra, in 2012 when she was kidnapped by a local drug cartel called the Zetas. After investigating her daughter’s kidnapping and eventually finding her daughter’s remains, Rodríguez gave the police information that led to some of the gang members being jailed. She foiled an attempting kidnapping of her husband by cartel members. She chased after the kidnappers and alerted the army, who managed to intercept the vehicle containing her husband.
Rodríguez had received death threats and feared for her safety. Despite raising concerns that her safety had been compromised on May 10, Rodríguez was killed on Mexico’s Mother’s Day. This violence seems to be related to the evidence she provided against her daughter’s murderers.
Civilian activism is nothing short of heroic, but reflects poorly on Mexico’s rule of law and its ability to protect its citizens against violence. Rodríguez’s murder, the disappearances, and murders of countless others cannot be permitted to continue. The government must work to put an end to the corruption and drug-related violence that plagues Mexico.