More than 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since the start of the country's war on drugs in 2006, according to authorities, reports BBC. The number is far higher than previous estimates of around 40,000. On top of this, more than 31,000 people were murdered in the country last year alone. While drug cartels and organised crime groups are the main perpetrators, security forces are also blamed for deaths and disappearances.
Around 53% of those who disappeared were between the ages of 15 and 35, and 74% were men, officials said. They put the total of disappeared persons at 61,637 since records began in 1964. However the vast majority were recorded since 2006, which is when then-President Felipe Calderón started a military crackdown on the drugs trade.
The problem has persisted since then, even after two administration changes. Last year, more than 5,000 people disappeared, said Karla Quintana, the head of Mexico's National Search Commission, at a news conference on Monday. "These are data of horror, and behind them are stories of great pain for families," said Ms Quintana, whose organisation co-ordinates the effort to find the missing.
Mexico is experiencing a level of disappearances that surpasses some of Latin America's worst tolls. Around 40,000 disappeared in Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. An estimated 30,000 disappeared in Argentina under its military rule between 1976 and 1983. Mexico's undersecretary of human rights, Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez, said 1,124 bodies had been exhumed from 873 clandestine burial sites since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took power in December 2018.
The left-wing leader promised to "achieve peace and end the war" in the country, when the murder rate was at an all-time high as drug cartels feud and fragment. He vowed to create a new national guard to tackle violence, however few have signed up to the force and some cited a fear of being killed on the job.