Mexico says 26,121 missing during drug war

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2012 file photo, a member of a caravan of Central American mothers hold a photograph of her disappeared child during a Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The sign reads in Spanish "Looking for Denis Mauricio Jimenes Bautista." A new Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 calls Mexico’s anti-drug offensive “disastrous” and cites 249 cases of disappearances, about 149 of which include evidence of being carried out by the military or law enforcement. The report says the forced disappearances follow a pattern in which security forces detain people without warrants at check-points, homes, workplaces or in public. Human Rights Watch criticizes former President Felipe Calderon for ignoring the problem, calling it “the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades.” (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, file)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An official count shows at least 26,121 people were reported missing during the term of President Felipe Calderon, who launched the country's offensive against drug cartels, Mexico's new administration said Tuesday.

Lia Limon, the Interior Department's subsecretary for human rights, said the list used data from local prosecutors across Mexico, and includes people reported missing for any reason during the previous administration. It doesn't include information collected after November 2012.

The list has been a subject of controversy in Mexico for weeks. After Limon said last week that some 27,000 were missing, a member of Calderon's administration disputed the figure, saying the only registry on disappeared people contains 5,319 names. Limon said the government would work to compare the official list with others assembled by government agencies and rights groups.

The government will also work to clarify who on the list may have been a victim of crime, and who may have gone missing for reasons like migration to the United States, a family dispute or a natural disaster.

"We have to be clear that this database doesn't prejudge the reasons that people can't be found, because many of the people on it could be missing for a variety of reasons that don't have to do with criminal acts," Limon said.

She said some sort of investigation had been opened in 20,915 of the cases, but she offered no details.

The Interior Department has granted some public access to the list, but those seeking information must enter a person's name in order to obtain any data.

The civil society group Propuesta Civica recently published a database it said was created by the federal attorney-general's office that contained 20,582. Days earlier, The Washington Post published a story that said it had been given a copy of the database that contained more than 25,000 names.

The organization Human Rights Watch said last week that it had documented 249 cases of disappearances since December 2006, 149 of which showed evidence of having taken place at the hands of security forces.

Searches of some of the names in the rights group's report showed that they did not appear in the new government database.


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