Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (commonly shortened to AMLO) declared an end to Mexico’s drug war during a daily press briefing this past January, as reported by Agence France-Presse. Under his administration, he would not use the army to combat the cartels in an effort to deescalate the conflict which has ravaged Mexican border towns.
“There is officially no more war. We want peace, and we are going to achieve peace… No capos have been arrested because that is not our main purpose. The main purpose of the government is to guarantee public safety … What we want is security, to reduce the daily number of homicides.”
Mexico first deployed its army to aid in the fight against the drug cartels in 2006. This strategy led to the capture of many drug kingpins, but it also escalated the conflict. The cartels have entered an arms race against not just the Mexican government, but also each other, as they fight to fill the void left by the arrested kingpins.
However, critics of the announcement are pointing to his proposal of a national guard to help keep the peace as creating a distinction without a difference, as well as contributing to the further militarization of public security.
Among the skeptics, however, were those who protested the lack of response for those who are currently missing as a direct result of the drug war. Reuters reports that Undersecretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas said during a news conference that there are over 40,000 people missing and 26,000 unclaimed bodies. This led Encinas to claim the territory “has become a huge clandestine grave,”
In response, AMLO announced the creation of the National Search System (Sistema Nacional de Busqueda or SNB), a forensic institute dedicated solely to finding people who disappeared during the war and to connect families with their loved one’s remains.
The government plans to launch a database of missing people and unclaimed bodies accessible to officials throughout the country, with the help of international human rights groups that have observed the situation for years.
Since the Central American migrant caravans entered Mexico this past year, the institute has pledged to prioritize disappeared Central Americans, who, according to Encinas, represent 8 out of 10 percent of those missing.
The National Search System is set to begin operations this March.