Globe, Human Rights, Latin America, Politiks

Beyond narcos (3): Cuauhtémoc and the disappearance of the disappeared

This city in the state of Chihuahua hides a mystery: a high record of cases of forced disappearance and a systemic lack of investigations by local authorities.


beyond narcos desaparecido mexico Wikimedia Commons 3 featMarcella Via


Ciudad Cuauhtémoc presents all the major characteristics of state violence during the War on Drugs. As pointed out by Amnesty International in the report “Treated with indolence”, while 1,698 people were officially registered as missing in 2016 in Chihuahua, 351 people were from Ciudad Cuauhtémoc.

The city has a strategic significance, both in terms of agricultural production and natural water reserves, because of its proximity to Cuenca Bustillos. Additionally, the geographical position of the city is considered ideal to connect drug networks present in the North-West of Mexico with the US.

According to the report from Amnesty International, the main targets of forced disappearance are young working men together with their family members, and human rights defenders pushing for investigations.

beyond narcos desaparecido mexico Wikimedia Commons“Treated with indolence” provides an analysis of 38 cases of forced disappearance recorded in the city between 2012 and 2014. People have been disappeared by members of the police force, as well as by persons wearing black uniforms in order not to be recognised.

Furthermore, there is a systemic lack of investigation of the cases by local authorities. Because of this issue, Martha Arana, the mother of one of the disappeared, says that the disappeared are not being treated as human beings, but rather as a piece of paper that needs to be filled.

Ciudad Cuauhtémoc has become a theatre of state violence. The police linked a major group of the disappeared with criminal activities without providing evidence to support this thesis. Moreover, people engaged in protests against fracking in the region have disappeared.

Athird group, mainly composed of women, disappeared because of their pressure on local authorities for investigations. This was the fate of both Artemisa Ibarra in 2011 and Martha Loya in 2013 who were searching for their disappeared relatives.

beyond narcos desaparecido mexico zocalo Wikimedia Commons 3In relation to the case of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, the media links the high level of insecurity and violence with a war between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels. Additionally, local newspapers have focused their attention on the presence of a new group called “La línea”, an armed branch of the Juárez Cartel.

According the version offered by the media, los lineeros have the job of disappearing their rivals from the Sinaloa Cartel, in collaboration with the local authorities.

This perspective reinforces the impression that there is a link between marginalised members of the community and criminality, as the disappeared become related with drug cartels.

Both the lack of investigations around the cases and the persecution of people seeking social justice have driven the population to form a social movement in response to the violations taking place in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc. However, as pointed out by the report from Amnesty International, members of the community identify the state authorities and the police as those responsible for these abuses.

The lack of investigations, together with the persecution of people challenging the status quo, not only leads to a second disappearance of the desaparecidos, but also to the disappearance of the people looking for them.

beyond narcos desaparecido mexico Wikimedia Commons 3This context of violence has forced the population to form a social movement to pressure local authorities for investigations.

Nevertheless, the interviews of family members of the disappeared by Amnesty International and independent media such as “Animal Político” highlight a different version of the story. Breaking the narco-narrative, the citizens of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc argue that the line separating drug cartels and local authorities is actually the one which is becoming more and more blurred.

(Fotos: Wikimedia Commons)

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