Mexico Local Officials Behind Mass Grave in Morelos

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Local officials in Mexico have been accused of burying over 150 bodies in mass graves, sparking suspicions that government workers could be assisting criminals in covering up evidence of targeted killings.

The prosecutors’ office of Morelos state in central Mexico has begun investigating current and former workers for illegally burying over 150 bodies that had been stored in the state’s morgues, reported Milenio. The majority of the bodies are lacking the piece of paper with a case file number that is typically used to identify them, reported AP.

The irregularities were uncovered following an investigation by family members of Oliver Wenceslao. When Wenceslao was kidnapped and killed in 2013, the state prosecutors did not return the body to the family and demanded time for further exams. A year and a half later, the family was informed that the body had been buried in a communal grave, from which it was later exhumed.

According to the investigation, the bodies were taken clandestinely, wrapped in plastic, stacked and buried.

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Meanwhile, a committee made up of family members named “The Other Disappeared” have resumed their search for bodies at a number of sites near the town of Iguala, Guerrero, reported El Sur. They recently discovered the 105th body since November 2014.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Morelos case may not be as sinister as it seems. 

“The work of organized crime? Not quite. More a demonstration of deep incompetence by the state coroner’s offices and other authorities,” Crime Analyst and editor of highly informative crime section at El Daily Post, Alejandro Hope, wrote in his daily email missive.

But although the Morelos case does not explicitly point to the infiltration of local authorities by criminal groups, given Mexico’s antecedents, it begs the question of whether this is more than a simple case of government malfeasance. Authorities in Morelos have been accused of protecting or even providing firepower for criminals in the past.

And while in countries with ongoing gang conflicts such as El Salvador and Honduras, mass graves are often attributed to criminal actors, Mexico has come under the spotlight for the possible involvement of security forces — and now judicial authorities — in clandestine cemeteries.

In the notorious case of Iguala, Guerrero, where 43 students were disappeared late last year, the government version of events stated that local police handed the victims over to the criminal gang Guerreros Unidos. The search for at least 41 of the 43 students near where they were last seen continues. And as noted in the cases unearthed by the “Other Disappeared,” the grave sites extend well beyond where those students might be. 

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