MEXICO CITY — The number of exhumed bodies now stands at 42 -- and the digging continues at the latest clandestine mass grave to be discovered on Mexican soil.
This month, Mexican authorities declared that they had exhumed 19 unidentified bodies from the unmarked burial ground along the Lerma River, in the western state of Jalisco. The site is near the border with Michoacan, a state reeling from the presence of violent drug cartels.
Since the initial announcement of the discovery, the number of exhumed bodies has continued to grow as officials continue their grisly work. It is unclear, however, how much closure the discoveries will bring for the families of the thousands who have disappeared in this country in recent years: Thus far, none of the 42 bodies have been identified, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office in Jalisco told The Times on Monday.
Such killing fields are a distressingly common reality in modern Mexico, where more than 26,000 people went missing during the 2006-2012 term of President Felipe Calderon. Then, as now, Mexico was reeling from a host of problems connected to organized crime, corruption and the federal government's attempt to push back against the power of the narco groups. The disappeared include ordinary people, rival drug cartel members and police as well as U.S.-bound migrants, who were a favorite kidnapping target for criminal groups.
The current grave site was discovered after two federal police officers disappeared in Michoacan. Suspects detained in the case later tipped off authorities to the presence of the burial ground.
However, the remains of the policemen have not turned up among the 42 bodies, a spokesman for the federal attorney general's office said.
Authorities this month also discovered the remains of six men and a woman buried in a lime grove near the Pacific tourist city of Acapulco.
In May, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the creation of a task force to search for the missing.