Human Rights, Drug-related Violence and Democracy in Mexico

This project will examine forced disappearances in Mexico in the context of electoral democracy and militarization. According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, forced or enforced disappearance refers to the involvement of state authorities in the arrest, detention, abduction of people in the form of authorization, support or acquiescence. My work with organizations of relatives of the disappeared, the United Forces for Our Disappeared in Mexico and Coahuila (FUNDEM and FUUNDEC) and Citizens in Support of Human Rights (CADHAC), indicates that the context of disappearances has changed in Latin America. Whereas forced disappearances occurred in the context of military dictatorships, authoritarianism and civil war in Latin America, this is taking place in Mexico in the absence of civil war and in an electoral democracy. A deeper understanding of the transformations in Mexican state-society relations, particularly between state, organized crime and the relatives of the disappeared, since 2006 may give us key insights into how militarization and the lack of restorative justice and social policy are intensifying the problem of forced disappearances in Mexico.
The purpose of this new research therefore would be to document policy responses at the local and national level to forced disappearances in those years and examine the implications of local and national policies on the families’ search for their disappeared in Mexico.
This research fills an important gap in the human rights and the Latin American politics literature. Most of the research in these fields has been done in areas where enforced disappearances have taken place in the context of civil war and authoritarian governments. For instance, while Colombia has been considered a democracy since the 1960s, enforced disappearances took place in the context of civil war between the Colombian state and guerrilla movements after the 1960s. In Guatemala, enforced disappearance took place under authoritarianism in the 1980s and 1990s, targeting the Mayan population and social justice activists. In Argentina and Chile, enforced disappearance was conducted by the state under a military dictatorship in the 1970s. Most victims were students, social activists and members of the Communist party. Unlike these cases, enforced disappearances have taken place in the absence of civil war and in the context of democracy in Mexico. The responsibilities of organized crime and the state are continuously blurred since state authorities might participate directly or indirectly on behalf of organized crime or state authorities in these disappearances. Also, no particular group of the population has been targeted in these disappearances. Thus, the contextual elements of the research, the unclear lines between state and organized crime and the lack of targeting of a particular group of the population make this case study a new scenario for the study of human rights abuses, particularly disappearances.

Faculty Supervisor:

Hepzibah Munoz Martinez


Genaro Manrique Giacoman






University of New Brunswick



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