Things That Matter

This Mexican City Has So Many Unclaimed Bodies That It’s Building A Massive Cemetery To Bury The Dead

Although Mexico’s Sinaloa state has claimed that homicides were down 61% over the last 10 years, it’s a different story across much of Mexico. In fact, the country saw its most violent year in history (since the 1918 Mexican Revolution).

In some states, violence is so brutal and widespread that authorities struggle to keep up with investigations or simply can’t identify the deceased’s remains. This has led to a sporadic patchwork of unmarked grave sites across the country. So one state is deciding to construct a mega-cemetery for unidentified, unclaimed bodies.

The border city of Ciudad Juárez will build a massive cemetery for the thousands of unidentified and unclaimed bodies.

The Chihuahua state government announced that they will build a 50,000-square-meter (that’s more than 12 acres) mega-cemetery in Ciudad Juárez for the burial of unidentified and unclaimed bodies.

Ciudad Juárez lays just across the border from El Paso, Texas and is one of the most violent cities in Mexico. In fact, 58% of the entire state of Chihuahua’s murders occur in the city of 1.5 million people. In 2016, the state was estimated to have had more than 17,000 homicide victims.

In the state-operated mega-cemetery, there will be “complete control” both in the burial and exhumation of bodies.

Chihuahua Attorney General César Augusto Peniche said in an interview that the cemetery is needed because unidentified and unclaimed bodies are currently buried in regular cemeteries where the corpses of crime victims are sometimes not managed as they should be.

“We intend to comply with the highest standards,” Peniche said, adding that the International Red Cross participated in the process to design the new cemetery. Adding: “We intend to have a dignified space, to manage remains professionally and [to have] strict control on the entry, location and removal [of bodies].”

The State Forensic Interment Center will be located on the state government-owned San Isidro-Zaragoza reserve in the northern border city and include facilities capable of storing up to 800 bodies prior to burial.

Construction of the cemetery and facilities that will include an ossuary, or bone room, and six refrigerated morgue chambers will cost 50 million pesos (US $2.65 million).

Thousands of murders are never even investigated let alone solved.

According to Insight Crime, a detective in Nuevo León state said that the cases “aren’t filed or closed, but there is also no follow-up police work, just the report with the crime scene information and the victim’s identification … and that’s how they stay.”

It is no surprise, then, that solving a homicide case in Mexico is the exception to the rule. In 27 states, including Nuevo León, nine in 10 crimes go unpunished.

In 27 of Mexico’s 32 states, the rate of cases without convictions tops 90 percent. Among the more successful states, Jalisco edges out with 88.9 percent of its cases unsolved, Mexico City is at 76.5 percent, and Yucatán is at 56.6 percent unsolved.

This means that Mexico has a rate of five convictions for every 100 homicide victims, whereas the Americas as a whole have an average rate of 24 per 100 victims. The conviction rate in Asia is 48, and in Europe 81, according to info from the United Nations.

The cemetery, officials say, is needed to keep up with the ever-growing need for burial space for crime victims.

Between October 2016, the month Governor Javier Corral took office, and October 2019, state authorities buried 818 unidentified bodies and 207 corpses of people whose identities were established but went unclaimed nevertheless.

Of the former number, 468 bodies – or 57% of the total – were killed in Juárez.

Homicides in the border city located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, increased 61% from 771 in 2017 to 1,245 in 2018 before rising an additional 12.6% last year even before data for December murders was included.

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