The search for seven missing call center employees led Mexican authorities to a gruesome discovery earlier this week, when at least 45 garbage bags containing various human remains were recovered from the bottom of a ravine on the outskirts of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco.
« Part of the investigation and the proceedings lead us to this very area, » said Jalisco state prosecutor Luis Joaquín Méndez Ruiz. he told reporters Wednesday, adding that both male and female body parts had been found in the bags.
« We are unable to establish how many victims there may be here, » he said.
On Thursday, the state attorney’s office said some of the remains were preliminary matched the physical characteristics of the missing staff members, who were last seen between 20 and 22 May. Their families have been notified, officials added, as forensic scientists work to confirm the identity of the remains.
Recent progress in the investigation has made the case « much more complex than it seemed, » Jalisco governor Enrique Alfaro said tweeted this week. The evidence so far, she added, suggests that the house where the missing persons worked was not a call center, « but an operations center of a different nature. »
A search of the house led the authorities to Find marijuana and possible traces of blood in a piece of cloth and a rag. They also found information about timeshares and memberships, along with sales goals for those who worked there.
Rosa Icela Rodriguez, Secretary of Security of Mexico, She said during a press conference on Tuesday that these contacts indicated that the employees « were doing some kind of real estate fraud and some kind of, shall we say, wire racketeering. »
Earlier this year, the US Treasury Department sanctioned several Mexican companies, most of them based in Jalisco, linked to timeshare fraud working on behalf of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
« This crime, which can rob victims of their life savings, results in another significant revenue stream for the cartel and strengthens its overall criminal enterprise, » said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the department’s office for the control of foreign assets.
The latest discovery in Jalisco is a macabre reminder of a wider epidemic of disappearances that has rocked the country for decades and tarnished the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. More than 110,000 people are missing in Mexico, their fate uncertain. Jalisco has recorded the highest number of disappearances in the country: nearly 15,000 people as of June 2.
The numbers have become a political sore point for López Obrador, particularly as Mexico heads into a presidential election in 2024, when one of the president’s closest allies is likely to be on the ballot.
When Mr. López Obrador took office in December 2018, he vowed to eradicate the violence gripping Mexico. But his security strategy of using « hugs, not bullets » to address the root causes of the fuel cartels doesn’t appear to have reduced the disappearances.
According to data from the National Register of Missing Persons, disappearances across Mexico have increased more than 20% in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period in 2022.
The president defended himself against the alarming numbers by saying that his government has gotten better at counting and investigating the missing.
“No government has ever cared for the disappeared like we are doing now,” said López Obrador She said last year. “We took on the responsibility of looking for them and helping their relatives. And that’s what we’re doing. »
But some families and activists disagree that the government’s efforts are working.
On May 28, Delia Quiroa, a human rights advocate whose brother Roberto disappeared in the state of Tamaulipas in 2014, published a letter asking Mexican cartel leaders to reach a « social pact » to stop disappearances and allow families to investigate their fate.
“All we want is to know what happened to our missing relatives,” Ms. Quiroa wrote. “We need your help and cooperation.”
A few days later, Mr López Obrador said he would agree to a deal that could end the violence. He returned the statement on Thursday, saying that while he supports families looking for their loved ones, « there is no other plan in the works. »
The Jalisco state attorney’s office said the search for the missing call center workers will continue and authorities will continue to explore the ravine until all bags have been located and extracted.