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Geopolitics

Missing In Mexico: Drug War Victims Unearthed In Mass Graves

In recent weeks, Mexican authorities have extracted body after body from a series of clandestine graves in the northern state of Tamaulipas. Now comes the challenge of matching the remains to the country鈥檚 growing number of drug war disappearances.

Missing In Mexico: Drug War Victims Unearthed In Mass Graves

EYES INSIDE -- LATIN AMERICA

It has been almost a year since Mois茅s Cruz Camacho went missing. The 20-year-old tech school student from Monterrey just up and vanished last April. "His phone didn't work anymore; he just disappeared," his sister Rebecca told the San Antonio Express-News as she stood outside the Tamaulipas Attorney General's Office Forensic Medical Service Center in Matamoros, Mexico.

The 19-year-old woman is one of dozens of relatives who have traveled to the northern Mexican city to provide investigators with DNA samples. The family members can only hope the sample don't match any of the decomposing bodies that authorities have been digging up in recent weeks in mass pits found near San Fernando, in northern Mexico's Tamaulipas state.

As of last Friday, 145 bodies have been recovered in Tamaulipas since work on the clandestine graves began late in March, according to government officials. In Durango state, the attorney general's office said it located a mass grave with the remains of 17 victims, including three heads and four skulls.

The Mexican government has begun offering cash rewards to anyone with information about locations of other burial sites. And on Friday, President Felipe Calder贸n said he will reinforce security on highways and roads in four border state of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Le贸n, Coahuila and San Luis Potos铆. Witnesses tell Mexican investigators that gunmen have been stopping buses, and forcing passengers off.

That is exactly what happened to 20-year-old Gerardo Mart铆nez, 20, who left his native Irapuato in Guanajuato state on March 27 with his brother-in-law and nephew on a bus trip to Matamoros. From there, they intended to cross the border and continue to Missouri where they had job offers, say family members. The three were reported missing after their cell phones went dead. The driver told police that armed gunmen stopped the bus and ordered the men out. The young man hasn't been seen since.

"We can only wait," Gerardo's 21-year-old wife Isabel told the Mexican daily El Universal. "I try to stay calm but there are days I can't stand it and I start to cry."

So far, 45 people have been arrested in connection with what appears to be a rash of mass executions, including 16 police officers from San Fernando who are suspected of helping drug traffickers. The latest major arrest was announced Sunday by the Mexican navy, which seized a Zeta cartel leader named Mart铆n Omar Estrada Luna, aka "El Kilo," in San Fernando. Estrada is thought to be responsible for the murder and kidnapping of more than 200 people, including migrants and bus passengers.

The notorious Zetas drug gang and the Gulf Cartel has put Tamaulipas under siege as they wage a bloody war for control of lucrative drug routes to the United States. More than 30,000 people have died in drug related violence since President Felipe Calder贸n declared a war on the cartels shortly after he took office in 2006.

In a report released March 31, a UN fact-finding team suggested that at least 3,000 people have disappeared throughout Mexico since Calder贸n took office. Mexican government officials originally questioned the numbers contained in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Just days later, however, authorities unearthed the first group of bodies in San Fernando.

Tamaulipas government officials have so far refused to impose a state of emergency, saying that curtailing the rights of ordinary citizens won't solve the abductions.

San Fernando was the site of a massacre last August involving 72 men, many of them Salvadoran and Guatemalan migrants trying to reach the United States. The victims reportedly refused to cooperate with traffickers, who demanded they smuggle narcotics across the border.

Martin Delf铆n
Worldcrunch

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Economy

The West Has An Answer To China's New Silk Road 鈥 With A Lift From The Gulf

The U.S. and Europe are seeking to rival China by launching a huge joint project. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will also play a key role 鈥 because the battle for world domination is not being fought on China鈥檚 doorstep, but in the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden shaking hands during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Daniel-Dylan B枚hmer

-Analysis-

BERLIN 鈥 When world leaders are so keen to emphasize the importance of a project, we may well be skeptical. 鈥淭his is a big deal, a really big deal,鈥 declared U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month.

The "big deal" he's talking about is a new trade and infrastructure corridor planned to be built between India, the Middle East and Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the project as a 鈥渂eacon of cooperation, innovation and shared progress,鈥 while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called it a 鈥済reen and digital bridge across continents and civilizations."

The corridor will consist of improved railway networks, shipping ports and submarine cables. It is not only India, the U.S. and Europe that are investing in it 鈥 they are also working together on the project with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia is planning to provide $20 billion in funding for the corridor, but aside from that, the sums involved are as yet unclear. The details will be hashed out over the next two months. But if the West and its allies truly want to compete with China's so-called New Silk Road, they will need a lot of money.

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