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Mexico: They kill a mother who was looking for her missing daughter

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Another mother searching for her missing daughter has lost her life in Mexico, in the fourth murder of volunteer search activists in the country since the start of 2021.

Activists said Tuesday that the victim was Esmeralda Gallardo, who was leading efforts to find her missing 22-year-old daughter.

The group Voice of the Disappeared in Puebla stated that Gallardo was murdered in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City.

The Puebla Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the death and promised to resolve the case “as soon as possible.”

“Stop making superficial speeches and guarantee the rights and safety of the victims, the rights and safety of the families of disappeared persons,” the group asked the authorities in a statement.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Mexico, Gallardo was shot to death. The institution condemned the murder and noted in a statement that “it would have provided relevant information on different occasions about the disappearance of her daughter, which was not effectively taken up in the investigation of the crime, nor in the search.”

Gallardo’s daughter, Betzabé Alvarado Gallardo, disappeared in the poor neighborhood of Villa Frontera in January 2021.

In August, another wanted activist, Rosario Rodríguez Barraza, was killed in the northern state of Sinaloa, where the drug cartel of the same name is based.

In 2021, another searcher, Aranza Ramos, was found dead a day after her group found a still-smoldering pit of bodies in Sonora, also to the north. Earlier that year, volunteer Javier Barajas Piña was shot in Guanajuato, the most violent state in the country.

The motive for these killings remains unclear. In the past, many searchers said publicly that they were not looking for evidence to convict the perpetrators of the deaths.

Most of the volunteer search teams are made up of the mothers of the more than 100,000 disappeared in Mexico.

Given the inaction or incompetence of the authorities, many are forced to carry out their own investigations or join search teams that, based on clues, go through ravines and fields sinking iron bars into the ground to detect the telltale smell of decomposing corpses.

The searchers, and the police officers who sometimes accompany them, tend to focus on finding graves and identifying the remains. Sometimes the groups receive anonymous tips about where the bodies are buried, information that probably only the killers or their accomplices have access to.

But volunteers often say they are threatened and watched, probably by the same people who murdered their sons, brothers and husbands.

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