Activist searching for 3rd volunteer killed in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — However, another mother searching for her missing son was killed in northern Mexico, becoming the third volunteer search activist to be killed in Mexico since 2021.

Rubén Rocha Moya, governor of the northern state of Sinaloa in the country, identified the woman killed on Wednesday as Rosario Rodríguez Barraza.

Rocha Moya wrote on her social media account: “I deeply regret killing Rosario Rodríguez Barraza, a tireless fighter, like many other women in Sinaloa looking for their loved ones.

The motive for the murders remains unclear, as most searchers have said publicly that they are not looking for evidence to convict the killers.

Volunteer search teams, often made up of the mothers of more than 100,000 people missing in Mexico, say they just want to find the bodies of their loved ones, mourn and bury them properly.

The announcement of her death came a day after International Day of Missing Persons August 30, marked by marches and protests in Mexico.

In a video posted by “Hasta Encontrarles,” another search group, Rodríguez Barraza is heard saying the classic phrase, “I am looking for my son, I am not looking for the culprit.”

Her son, Fernando Ramírez Rodríguez, has not been seen since he was kidnapped in the town of La Cruz, Sinaloa, in October 2019. La Cruz is located on the Pacific coast between the port of Mazatlan and the capital. state government of Culiacan.

Sinaloa is home to the drug cartel of the same name.

Rodríguez Barraza said armed men in a white car grabbed her son, then 21.

“I’ve videotaped them, I gave them testimony and so far, they haven’t done anything for me,” she said of prosecutors.

It’s a common story in Mexico. Faced with official inaction or incompetence, many mothers are forced to investigate on their own or join search teams, often acting on advice, traversing seagulls and fields, stick iron rods in the ground to detect the stench of decomposing bodies.

Most of the victims are believed to have been killed by drug cartels, whose bodies were dumped in shallow graves, decomposed or burned. Drug gangs and kidnappers often use the same locations over and over, creating creepy killing fields.

Searchers, and the police who sometimes accompany them, focus on finding graves and identifying remains – not gathering evidence of how they died or who killed them. Search teams sometimes even receive anonymous tips on where to bury bodies, knowledge that may be available only to the killers or their accomplices.

But mostly female volunteers often report being threatened and followed – perhaps by the very people who murdered their sons, brothers and husbands.

In 2021, in the neighboring state of Sonora, searcher Aranza Ramos died a day after her search team found a body disposal pit that was still smoking. Earlier that year, volunteer search activist Javier Barajas Piña was shot down in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent place.

The cartel may be angry simply because of the inconvenience: after searchers move the body, they are forced to find new disposal sites.

Among search groups, known as “collectives” in Mexico, human remains are not referred to as corpses or bodies. Searchers call them “treasures,” because to grieving families they are precious.

Searchers often call law enforcement when they think they have found a burial ground, mainly because authorities often refuse to conduct a slow but important DNA test unless the remains are found. professionally excavated.

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