Two Months on, Nuevo Leon Massacre Victims Remain Unidentified

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None of the 49 dismembered bodies dumped in May on a highway in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, have been identified by police, part of a growing number of unidentified victims in Mexico’s drug war.

It took authorities less than a week to arrest a suspect following the discovery of nearly 50 bodies along the highway in Cadereyta, near Monterrey. However, two months later law enforcement has yet to identify a single one of the victims, the Associated Press reports.

The bodies were found without heads, hands, or feet, making identification more difficult. Alleged Zetas cell leader Daniel de Jesus Elizondo Ramirez, alias “El Loco” was arrested and charged with dumping the bodies, but he and two other suspects have been little help, insisting that someone else delivered the bodies to them. After four months in the morgue, the bodies will be buried in common graves in local cemeteries.

InSight Crime Analysis

The mutilation of the bodies found in Nuevo Leon suggests that the perpetrators wanted to hide the victims’ identity. Their DNA has been compared with Mexico’s record of missing people, but without success, according to the Associated Press, while Nuevo Laredo officials said they had no reports of large numbers of people going missing in the days leading up to the discovery of the bodies. One possible explanation is that the victims were migrants, perhaps from Central America, who were killed in order to sow terror among rival criminal gangs, as InSight Crime suggested at the time. Migrants make easier targets than members of a rival gang: they have few contacts and are often in contact with criminal elements who they pay to help them make their way towards the US.

The Nuevo Leon victims add to a growing number of unidentified corpses in the country. According to National Human Rights Commission statistics quoted by the Associated Press, there are a total of 16,000 bodies in Mexico that remain unidentified, and 24,000 people who are missing. Since 2005, the number of unidentified bodies has grown by 80 percent and the number of missing persons has grown by 350 percent.

The Associated Press attributes the growing count of unidentified bodies to the poor forensic capabilities of the police, and the fact that some witnesses and victims’ relatives are afraid to cooperate with police investigations.

The news agency reports that most states in Mexico lack the capabilities to create DNA profiles, while few investigators have the training to properly process crime scenes. Criminal groups are not the only ones who “disappear” their victims — a United Nations report earlier this year accused the government of being complicit in the disappearance of citizens.

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