Mexico's president accuses press and volunteer searchers for missing people of 'necrophilia'

Women carry digging tools at the site where their search team said they found a clandestine crematorium in Tlahuac, on the edge of Mexico City, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. At left is Jacqueline Palmeros who has been searching for her disappeared daughter since 2020 in Mexico City, and at right is María de Jesús Soria whose daughter disappeared in Veracruz in 2016, and whose remains were turned over to her in 2022. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The administration of Mexico’s president has accused the press and volunteer searchers who look for the bodies of missing people of “necrophilia,” comments that drew criticism this week.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is known for insulting people he views as opponents. But a pre-taped segment prepared by state-run television that was aired Wednesday at his morning press briefing used unusually crude language.

It accused reporters and volunteer searchers of suffering “a delirium of necrophilia” for having reported on a suspected clandestine crematorium on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Authorities have denied that any human remains were found there, and López Obrador has often suggested that any report regarding Mexico’s rampant violence is a politically motivated attack on him. Necrophilia is a term used to describe an erotic attraction for corpses.

The attack appeared aimed at Ceci Flores, who has spent much of the last decade looking for the bodies of her two missing sons without much help from the government. Flores announced the find of the purported crematorium last week; she has long accused the government of ignoring the plight of Mexicans over the country’s more than 100,000 missing people.

“When would you ever imagine a president using all the power of the government to depict a mother searching for her sons as the enemy?” Flores said late Wednesday.

“If anyone is suffering from delirium it is them, they have ‘necrophobia,’ they prefer not to see the dead,” not to see the disappeared and ignore the painful reality,” she said.

López Obrador’s spokesman and his press office did not respond to requests for comment on whether the statement in the video reflected his own personal thinking. But the president has regularly called those who complain of Mexico’s gang-fueled violence “vultures” or people “trying to profit from pain.”

In fact, his administration has spent far more time looking for people falsely listed as missing — who may have returned home without advising authorities — than in searching for grave sites that relatives say they desperately need for closure.

Flores may have been wrong about the clandestine crematorium. She said her team had found bones, clandestine burial pits and ID cards around a charred pit on the southern outskirts of the city. City prosecutors said the bones belonged to dogs and the people whose ID cards had been found there had either discarded them or had them stolen, and were alive.

But such burn-pits and clandestine graves are often used by drug cartels in northern Mexico, where Flores is from, and she and other “searching mothers” have found many such sites and reported them to authorities.

Just this week, prosecutors in Flores’ home state of Sonora confirmed they had identified 45 missing people from among 57 sets of remains at a body dumping ground known as “El Choyudo” that was originally discovered by Flores’ group, The Searching Mothers of Sonora.

The “madres buscadoras” (searching mothers) usually aren’t trying to convict anyone of their relatives’ disappearances. They say they just want to find their remains. Many families say not having definite knowledge of a relative’s fate is worse than it would be to know a loved one was dead.

The Mexican government has spent little time looking for the missing, so the volunteers conduct their own hunts for clandestine graves where cartels hide their victims, often acting on anonymous tips and plunging steel rods into the earth to detect the odor of decay.

At least seven volunteer searchers have been killed in Mexico since 2021.

Rather than any debate about Flores’ track record, the comments Wednesday at the president’s briefing appeared to reflect the president’s angry response to anything he perceives as criticism.

Montserrat Tula, a Mexico City resident, was disturbed by the comments at the president’s news briefing.

“There is no justification under any circumstance to use such disrespectful and insulting language,” Tula said, adding the pre-taped segments at his press briefings “are, for the most part, used to carry out some form of online persecution against anyone doing journalism.”

The necrophilia comments were featured in one of the president’s weekly segments known as “Who’s Who in Lies,” in which a spokeswoman attacks press coverage the president views as unfairly slanted against him. But a large part of the president’s own press briefings almost every day are given over to attacking reporters, accusing them of being part of a conspiracy and even questioning how much they earn.


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