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Mexico drug war memorial opens amid protest

Monument to honour up to 70,000 people killed in country's drug war criticised for not naming the dead.

Last Modified: 06 Apr 2013 08:19
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Some victims' families protested the unveiling of the memorial saying they wanted justice instead [AP]

Mexico City has opened a memorial to honour tens of thousands of victims of the country's drug war.

The government's official monument was dedicated on Friday, four months after its completion, in a public event where relatives of the missing chased after the dignitaries in tears, pleading for help in finding their loved ones.

Only some victims' rights groups recognise the monument, while others picked an entirely different monument to place handkerchiefs painted with names and personal messages in protest of the official site, which does not bear a single victim's name.

“Other organisations asked us for other space because they're against this one,'' Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said at the official dedication of the government monument, which consists of steel panels bearing quotes from famous writers and thinkers.  

“What took us so long was trying to get agreement among the groups, and we failed.''

The memorial dispute arises from the fact that the Mexican government has yet to fully document cases of drug war dead and missing, despite constant pleas from rights groups, the public and orders from Mexico's own transparency agency.

The previous government of Felipe Calderon stopped counting drug war dead in September of 2011 and the new government of Enrique Pena Nieto has only provided monthly statistics for December, and January and February of this year.

Estimates of those killed range from 60,000 to more than 100,000, and the missing from 5,000 to 27,000.

'No security'

Jose Merino, a political science professor at Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology, said only when the government documents every victim's case and acknowledges that the violence continues will people accept a memorial.

“We haven't reached the point where we can agree on what is hurting us and why,'' Merino said.

“The job of the government is to study all these cases and not pile up stones for memorials.”

Former President Calderon, who at first dismissed most of the drug-war dead as criminals, proposed the memorial last year after a long process of meeting with victims' families and taking heat for his earlier remarks.

At the event Friday, relatives of missing people approached Interior Minister Osorio Chong to plead for help in finding their loved ones.

Yolanda Colin, aunt of a 34-year-old man who has been missing since September 2011, said relatives needed justice and security, and help from the authorities to find those missing.

"What help can we count on? We don't have any security. The authorities just say, 'yes, we are going to look into it,' but they do nothing, nothing," Colin said.

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