Mexican mother of kidnapped man visits Japan to describe grim reality of drug war

JIJI

A Mexican mother of a man entangled in the Latin American country’s bloody drug war who was kidnapped in 2013 is on a visit to Japan to describe the situation in her country, seeking support from the country to identify those that may have been killed.

During her visit through Sept. 6, Lucia Diaz, 63, is scheduled to give speeches in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

Diaz, who leads a group of families in similar situations in the eastern state of Veracruz, said Saturday in Tokyo that she is still holding out hope that her missing son will return home alive.

According to Diaz, her son was running an event company with six workers in the coastal Gulf of Mexico city of Veracruz when he was abducted at the age of 29.

The initial investigation by a special police squad found that one of the company’s staffers had been involved in the selling of his mobile phone.

No one was arrested over the abduction, however, and her son was not returned even after Diaz paid a ransom.

Diaz was working as an English interpreter, but her life drastically changed after her son’s disappearance. After the special squad stepped aside, local police were slow to respond to her request to conduct a search for the missing son.

At that time, she met relatives of others who had gone missing under similar circumstances to her son, and launched the group, called Colectivo Solecito de Veracruz.

Initially comprising only eight members, it grew to 40 members in two months, attracting attention, including online.

The group then faced a need to raise funds for its activities. Some members had lost their families’ main earners and could not afford to pay bus fares to attend group meetings, according to Diaz.

In addition to soliciting donations, the group started to run food stands and other shops at festivals, parks and beaches.

The group operates three used-clothing shops and provides advice on cases of missing people related to the country’s drug war. It now has 250 members.

When Diaz and her colleagues were preparing to hold a demonstration in central Veracruz in May 2016, they were approached by a man in a car, who handed them a map marking a specific location. Diaz said that although she could not see the man’s face clearly, she instinctively understood that the map showed the location of a secret burial ground.

Diaz and others tried to persuade the police to allow them to survey the site on a hill outside the city, stressing that they were not seeking those responsible but just wanted to find their loved ones.

The police finally gave permission for the survey two months later. The remains of nearly 300 people have been recovered, and more are still believed to be buried there.

Only 15 sets of remains have been identified so far. Although DNA examinations in Mexico are left to the authorities, Diaz expressed hopes for Japanese support for identification work.

Only five of the identified victims have been recognized by police as missing people. In Mexico, some 70 percent of families with missing members are said to be too scared to make reports to police, due to apparent links between police and crime syndicates, according to Diaz.