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Mother’s Day is a sad reminder for the mothers of Mexico’s over 100,000 missing people

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hundreds of mothers of missing people, relatives and activists marched in protest through downtown Mexico City Friday to mark a sad commemoration of Mother’s Day.

The marchers, angry over what they say is the government’s lack of interest in investigating the disappearances of Mexico’s over 100,000 missing people, chanted slogans like “Where are they, our children, where are they?” They carried massive banners that, in some cases, showed nearly 100 photos of missing people.

The Mother’s Day march comes just days after officials managed to find the bodies of three foreigners less than a week after they went missing in Baja California state, while many Mexican mothers have been searching for the sons and daughters for years, and even decades.

“Because they are foreigners, those boys’ country put the pressure on to look for them and they found them,” said Maria del Carmen Ayala Vargas, who has been looking for almost three years for any trace of her son, Iván Pastrana Ayala, who was abducted in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz in 2021.

Ayala Vargas doesn’t begrudge the families of the two Australian men and one American man who at least got some closure when their bodies were found at the bottom of a well last week. “We take no pleasure in other people’s pain,” she said, but she wants the same kind of energetic search for all the missing.

“That’s the way we want it done for everybody, equally,” she said. “It’s real proof that when they (officials) want to do something, they can.”

Australian surfers Callum and Jake Robinson and American Jack Carter Rhoad were allegedly killed by car thieves in Baja California, across the border from San Diego, somewhere around April 28 or 29. The killers dumped their bodies in an extremely remote well miles away, but authorities found them in about four days.

In contrast, in her son’s case, Ayala Vargas said the government “has done absolutely nothing, they even lost our DNA samples” which relatives submit in hopes of identifying bodies.

But some mothers have been looking even longer.

Martha de Alejandro Salazar has spent almost 14 years looking for her son Irving Javier Mendoza, ever since he and several other youths were abducted from a streetside food stand in the northern city of Monterrey in 2010. As with most mothers, she carries a banner with her son’s photo.

“It’s been 14 years and my son is still missing, with no answer from the government,” said De Alejandro Salazar. “They (prosecutors) always say the same thing, there is no progress in the case.”

“What little investigation gets done is because we mothers take them whatever investigative work we have been able to do on our own and lay it on their desks,” she said.

Some of the anger Friday was directed at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose administration has spent far more time looking for people falsely listed as missing — who may have returned home without advising authorities — than in searching for grave sites that relatives say they desperately need for closure.

One mother, Yolanda Morán, 70, was pushed in a wheelchair on the march. Though her strength was failing, she vowed never to stop looking for her son Dan Jeremeel who was abducted in the northern state of Coahuila in 2008; a soldier was later found driving his car.

Morán carried a ‘missing person’ announcement for López Obrador, because, she says, he has been totally absent from the issue.

The march also comes two days after López Obrador’s administration raised hackles by accusing the press and volunteer searchers who look for the bodies of missing people of “necrophilia.”

A taped segment prepared by state-run television aired Wednesday at the president’s morning press briefing accused reporters and volunteer searchers of suffering “a delirium of necrophilia” for having reported on a suspected clandestine crematorium on the outskirts of Mexico City. Authorities have denied that any human remains were found there.

“Our president makes fun of us, he says this doesn’t exist,” Ayala Vargas said, referring to the disappeared problem that López Obrador has sought to minimize.

By MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press

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