Mexico: relatives of disappeared stage hunger strike

Frustrated by slow progress in determining the fates of missing loved ones, relatives of ten men from southern Mexico who vanished on the Mexico-US border have embarked on a hunger strike and public protest. The action was initiated five days ago in the capital of Oaxaca by family members of a group of men who disappeared on July 14, 2010, after traveling to the Tamaulipas border city of Matamoros to purchase two trucks and vehicle parts for an eco-tourism enterprise.

Maria Vizarretea Salinas, relative of four of the missing men from San Pedro Pochutla, Oaxaca, insisted that her three brothers Juan Carlos, Luis and Andres and a brother-in-law, Isauro Rojas, were not involved in organized crime. “They were known in Pochutla and Zapotengo as working men,” Vizarretea said. All of the disappeared men were members of a cooperative business that specialized in offering eco-tourism excursions and glimpses of captive crocodiles. Vizarretea said the coop had previously purchased a truck on the border and members were returning to purchase other needed vehicles and parts.

Suspicion exists that the men from San Pedro Pochutla could be among the 193 bodies found buried near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, this year. The exposure of the so-called narco-graves followed an earlier grim find in the same area that unearthed the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants who had been murdered. Last month, Mexican federal police detained the alleged ring-leader of the killings, Edgar “El Huache” Huerta Montiel, along with a female companion in Zacatecas.

Originally from Michoacán and a purported lieutenant of the Zetas crime organization, Huerta was alleged to have participated in the kidnapping, torture and killing of people traveling through Tamaulipas who were suspected of ties to rival Gulf drug cartel.

Jesus Lopez Lopez, Oaxaca state attorney general, said DNA samples of the missing Oaxaca residents have been sent to Tamaulipas state law enforcement officials in an effort to confirm victims’ identities. Lopez said samples were also sent to law enforcement agencies in other Mexican states. “We are helping to locate the missing persons,” Lopez added.

But after waiting a full year with no information about men who left behind wives and children, relatives and their supporters are now pressing for quicker answers. The hunger strike has drawn the support of a local peace and justice commission of the Roman Catholic Church. “There are only promises, speeches and justifications,” said Romualdo Francisco Mayren Pelaez, coordinator of the Archdiocese of Antequera’s peace and justice commission, “but there is no indication of the whereabouts of these people.”

In addition to Maria Vizarretea’s missing relatives, the disappeared men have been identified as Fidel and Gregorio Hernandez, Adelaido Espino, Antonio Feria, Nemorio Vizarretea and Benito Salinas.

From Frontera NorteSur, July 19

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