Last month’s demonstrations to commemorate the first anniversary of the forced disappearance of 43 students from Mexico’s Ayotzinapa teacher training college didn’t only draw protesters outraged by the government’s handling of the case.
In Guadalajara, the capital of the western state of Jalisco, activists also took the opportunity to highlight the failure of local officials to locate their own missing family members. Having grown frustrated by months of inaction, they have now broken off talks with the state government.
“There is a lack of will on the part of the state,” said Guadalupe Aguilar, the spokesperson for FUNDEJ (Families United by Disappearances in Jalisco), a coalition of 300 families of missing persons.
When the Jalisco governor, Aristóteles Sandoval, first met with FUNDEJ members in May, he pledged to meet their eight demands aimed at making investigations into disappearances more transparent and productive.
But in a statement issued on Tuesday, FUNDEJ affirmed that the governor has not fulfilled one of his pledges, while another 341 people have gone missing across Jalisco since their meeting with him. Moreover, the activists have grown weary of being attended to in meetings by junior representatives rather than the senior state officials themselves.
“The representatives can’t take decisions, so why are they there?” asked Aguilar, whose son José Luis Arana disappeared on the outskirts of Guadalajara, the Jalisco state capital, in 2011.
“They haven’t found our children. There’s no point in us sitting down and them listening to us, offering us coffee and talking to us, if they’re not going to search for them,” she added.
Local columnist Ruben Martin stated this week that if the governor truly cared about the disappearances he would prioritize the issue and meet with their relatives on at least a weekly basis.
Instead, he noted, Sandoval regularly prioritizes business meetings and industry events over the victims of this crisis.
According to data from the Jalisco attorney general’s office, there were 2,969 missing people in the state as of June 30, the second highest total in all of Mexico. FUNDEJ claims the figure is even higher, at over 3,300 disappearances.
Among them is Óscar Alberto Castillanes Monreal, who was abducted from his home in Zapopan, part of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, on February 6.
His mother, María Isobel Monreal Magallanes, told Latin Correspondent she has been searching for him ever since.
“They took violently him from inside his home. There were bloodstains in his house. Witnesses said they left in a black pickup truck,” she said.
Monreal said she filed complaints with the local authorities but she has no faith in the police who have failed to find her son.
“They recovered the vehicle and one person was arrested but that was back in Easter and my son still hasn’t appeared,” she added.