The office of the Mexican Attorney General, known as the PGR, has abruptly called off digging operations at what had become the largest mass grave site uncovered during President Peña Nieto’s time in office. A series of twenty clandestine graves containing 67 bodies were discovered in three weeks of exhumations which began on November 9th.
What triggered the search in the area along the state line of Jalisco and Michoacán was the November 3rd disappearance of two federal investigators. The last known whereabout of René Rojas Márquez and Gabriel Quijados Santiago was in the Michoacán municipality of Vista Hermosa. Twenty-two municipal police and three civilians were arrested soon after and resulting testimonies led forensics teams to the nearby area of La Barca in the state of Jalisco.
Three weeks of digging in the area resulted in daily discoveries of bodies, right up to the final day of the operations on November 30th. The two missing PGR investigators, whose disappearance led to the search operation, were reportedly not among the bodies.
This not the first time a mass grave exhumation operation yielding new bodies daily has suddenly stopped. A similar search in April of 2011 in the Tamaulipas municipality of San Fernando was also halted despite indications that continued digging in the area would result in further finds.
The cadavers found in La Barca are being taken to the PGR forensics lab in Mexico City for analysis. Despite the magnitude of the discovery, high-ranking federal officials have yet to hold a press conference specifically on the issue of the mass graves.
Even with the abrupt cancellation of search efforts in the area, the 67 victims represent the single largest body count of the Peña Nieto administration which marks one year in office today.
[NOTE: On December 2, 2013 an unnamed PGR official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP and EFE that the final count was 64 bodies. AP article here. To date, no high-ranking federal official has held a press conference on the issue of the mass graves to give consistent, on-record information.]