Another mother searching for her missing child has been killed in Mexico, the fourth killing of a volunteer search activist in Mexico since early 2021.
Activists said Tuesday that the victim was Esmeralda Gallardo, who led efforts to find her missing 22-year-old daughter.
The activist group Voice of the Disappeared in Puebla said Gallardo was killed in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City. Local media reported that he was shot to death.
Prosecutors in Puebla confirmed the murderand pledged to resolve the case “as soon as possible.”
However, the group called on the authorities in a statement to “put aside superficial rhetoric and guarantee the safety of the victims, as well as the rights and safety of the families of the disappeared.”
Gallardo’s daughter, Betzabe Alvarado Gallardo, disappeared in the low-income neighborhood of Villa Frontera in January 2021.
In August, search activist Rosario Rodríguez Barraza was killed in the northern state of Sinaloa, home of the eponymous drug cartel.
The motive for this and other killings remained unclear. Most investigators say publicly that they are not looking for evidence to convict the killers.
Volunteer search teams, mostly made up of mothers of Mexico’s 100,000 missing, say they just want to find the bodies of their loved ones, mourn and bury them properly.
Faced with official inaction or incompetence, many mothers are forced to conduct their own investigations or join search parties that, often on edge, cross ravines and fields, plunging iron rods into the ground to detect the telltale stench of decomposing bodies. .
Investigators, and the police who sometimes accompany them, usually focus on finding graves and identifying remains — not gathering evidence about how they died or who killed them. Search teams sometimes even receive anonymous tips about where bodies are buried, knowledge possibly only available to the killers or their accomplices.
But the mostly female volunteers often report being threatened and watched – possibly by the same people who murdered their children, brothers and husbands.
In 2021, in the northern state of Sonora, researcher Aranza Ramos is found dead a day after her search team found a still-smoking body disposal pit. Earlier that year, volunteer search activist Javier Barajas Piña was murdered in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state.
After the killing in August, a group of investigative groups known as “collegiates” issued a statement calling for protection for investigative mothers.
“No mother should be killed in search of her children,” the coalition wrote. “Instead, the government is obligated to ensure their safety in continuing their search, as thousands of missing persons cases continue to pile up.”
In 2018, a mother searches for her son’s remains with a team in the western state of Nayarit he told CBS News the gruesome task gives her a sense of purpose and helps her cope with her loss.
“We feel like a family because no one understands the pain we’re going through,” she told CBS News.
Most of the victims are believed to have been were killed by drug cartelstheir bodies were thrown into the shallows graves, disintegrated or burned. Drug and kidnapping gangs often use the same locations over and over again, creating gruesome killing fields.