People, Laws, and Agencies
Felipe Calderón: President of Mexico from 2006 until 2012 as a member of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) political party. Under this administration, the militarization of national security was established, alongside Mexico’s domestic “war on drugs”.
Enrique Peña Nieto: President of Mexico from 2012 to 2018 as a member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Most notably in the context of disappearances and Mexican national security, Peña Nieto upheld Calderón’s practice of militarizing national security.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO): Current president of Mexico, elected in 2018. He had run unsuccessfully in the past for this office and currently is a member of the newly created Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA). AMLO’s tendency to portray himself as a man always on the correct side of history has created controversy, especially with respect to the lack of pregressive actions taken by his administration. The AMLO administration has upheld the militarization of national security, through the creation of the National Guard.
Humberto Moreira: Governor of the state of Coahuila de Zaragoza from 2005 until 2011, member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Moreira’s government has been accused of corruption at the highest levels of the state government and collusion with the crimes of the Zetas cartel, despite their claims to crack down on organized crime. This administration failed to recognize the problem of disappearances and generalized violence in Coahuila and left victims and their families without official support. Brother of Rubén Moreiera.
Rubén Moreira: Governor of Coahuila from 2011 until 2017, member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). While this administration publicly recognized the problem of disappearances in Coahuila, the actions taken to confront this problem and support families dealing with the disappearance of a loved one was weak, with few results. Brother of Humberto.
José Natividad González Parás: Governor of Nuevo León from 2003 to 2009 under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
Rodrigo Medina: Governor of Nuevo León from 2009 to 2015. Medina was supported by a coalition of political parties composed of el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), el Partido Verde Ecologista de México, el Partido Democrático y el Partido Cruzada Ciudadana, called Juntos por Nuevo León. As governor, Medina militarized the security of Nuevo León as had been done nationally. At the end of his term as governor, Medina was confronted with a slew of controversies stemming from allegations of political corruption. Medina was put under preventive arrest in 2017, following legal actions taken against him. These charges included embezzlement, the misuse of public funds, and property damage to the state.
Jaime Rodríguez Calderón: Calderón has been the governor of Nuevo León since 2015 and is a member of the Independent Party. He ran for president in the 2018 national elections as an independent candidate. Calderón has had to deal with cartel and general violence that directly affect the lives of people living in Nuevo León.
GATE (Specialized Weapons and Tactics Groups) [Grupo de Armas y Tácticas Especiales]: GATE is a military group in Mexico that works with the Mexican Army. The legality of this group has been questioned since its creation, making its existence controversial. Members of this group, who tend to be dressed in black from head to toe, are suspected to be involved in many disappearances across Mexico.
RNPED (Registro Nacional de Datos de Personas Extraviadas o Desaparecidas): RNPED, or the National Registry of Information of Missing or Disappeared Persons, is a federal database of information on disappeared people. The database contains information from cases reported by state and federal prosecutors and was available on the Mexican government's website. Due to issues of impunity and underreporting, this accuracy of this database is in question. It has been replaced by the work of the National Search Commission established by the General Law on Enforced Disappearance of 2018, though no reliable government database has yet been established.
Grupo Especializado de Búsqueda Inmediata de Personas Desaparecidas (GEBI): GEBI, or the Group Specialized in the Immediate Search for Disappeared Persons, is an entity local to Nuevo León. Its mission is to locate missing persons, investigate their disappearances, identify perpetrators, and bring justice to victims This organization was formed through the collaboration of CADHAC and PGJNL in an attempt to address and remedy the crisis of disappearances in Nuevo León.
PGJNL: The PGJNL, or Poder Judicial de Nuevo León (Judicial Power of Nuevo Leon), is the judicial force in the state of Nuevo León. In collaboration with the NGO CADHAC, this entity created the GEBI in an attempt to confront and resolve the issue of disappeared persons in the state.
Partido Acción Nacional (PAN): A conservative political party that was founded in 1939 in Mexico and continues to be one of the four dominant parties in Mexico. The ideologies and practices of this party are based in Christian morality and “National Action”, or centralism. While many members of this party do not consider themselves to be conservative, the economic and social stances adopted by PAN would be identified as such. The party advocates for neoliberal practices and has opposed both abortions and same-sex marriages.
Partido Movimiento Ciudadano: Formed in 1996 and recognized as an official political party in 1997, the Partido Movimiento Ciudadano is currently a party of little influence in the Mexican federal government. The foundational ideologies of this party include: the participation of citizens in government, the protection of human rights, the equality of sexes, and the empowerment of citizens in the realization of collective well-being. Currently represented by Clemente Castañeda Hoeflich at the national level, this party is dominant in Jalisco, under the leadership of governor Enrique Alfaro Ramírez.
PRI - Partido Revolucionario Institucional: This liberal political party, founded in 1929, dominated Mexico’s national politics from 1930 to 2000. The ideological foundation of this party is derived from the Mexican revolution. The party has as its core values liberty, democracy, and social justice. This party is affiliated with other left-leaning political parties through its membership in la Internacional Socialista.
PRD - Partido de la Revolución Democrática: This left-leaning party was created in 1987 and broke away from el Partido Revolucionario Institucional. Originally composed of a coalition of multiple political parties, this party was consolidated into one in 1989. Just like el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), this party is affiliated with la Internacional Socialista. This party defines itself as progressive and rejects and criticizes neoliberalism and capitalism.
MORENA: or el Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, is a left-leaning political party whose founder is the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Originally created as a civil association in 2011and solidified as a political party in 2014, this party’s mission is to transform Mexican politics and society, with the intent of creating a more just, democratic nation whose members have a say in national development and are freed of the negative consequences of neoliberalism.
Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG): Established in 2007, this cartel originally formed part of the Cartel de Sinaloa. In fact, it functioned as the armed wing of this cartel and was made responsible for combatting the cartel’s principal rival: Los Zetas. Fittingly, CJNG was originally called “Los Matazetas” [the kill-the-Zetas]. CJNG, led by Nemesio Oseguera Cernates, or “El Mencho”, whose base is in Jalisco, is known to operate in 22 states and is currently engaged in sustained conflict with the Cartel de Sinaloa. Like Los Zetas, CJNG is involved in drug trafficking, extortion and disappearances, among other illicit activities.
Cartel Nueva Plaza: The result of inter cartel fighting and pressure from rival cartels, the Cartel Nueva Plaza was formed by disgruntled members of Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación.
Gulf Cartel: Originally established to sell liquor to the United States in the era of prohibition, the Gulf Cartel specializes in drug trafficking and other organized crime. The traditional area of influence of the Gulf Cartel is in Tamaulipas, with strategic bases in Matamoros, Nuevo León, and Reynosa. This cartel has recently lost territory in Nuevo León to its former security wing, Los Zetas.
Los Zetas: This cartel, known for its extreme violence, was established as the enforcer wing of the Gulf Cartel. This group of highly trained individuals was composed of soldiers who deserted Special Forces of the Mexican Army, many of whom had been sent to the Northeastern region of Mexico to combat the Gulf Cartel. This group’s current area of influence includes Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Sonora, Sinaloa, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Durango, Tabasco, among other regions. Los Zetas has extended its sphere of influence to include the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and various European countries. The Zetas have been implicated in many disappearances and murders.
Sinaloa Cartel: This cartel, also known as the Pacific Cartel, is an organized crime group dedicated to drug trafficking. While the cartel’s operations are concentrated in Sinaloa, it is present in over half of the Mexican states and along the border that Mexico shares with the United States. This cartel is considered to be among the strongest in Mexico and internationally, thanks to its contacts and influence.
NGOs: Non-governmental Organizations, or NGOs, operate independently of official governmental entities. Officially defined in 1945 in Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations, these tend to be non-profit and international in scope. The activities pursued by such groups may pertain to environmental protection, human rights advocacy, and social justice initiatives.
Centro Diocesano Fay Juan de Larios: Founded in 1999, the center’s mission was initially to address problems related to labor and community rights. With teams in Oaxaca, Coahuila, Chihuahua and el Distrito Federal, the Center now works on issues of migration and disappearances, educates individuals on human rights, and facilitates the formation of social groups to increase awareness of and combat social injustices in Mexico.
United Forces for Our Disappeared in Coahuila (FUUNDEC), United Forces for Our Disappeared in Mexico (FUNDEM): FUUNDEC in Coahuila emerged as the first group of families of disappeared persons in Mexico and expanded later to FUNDEM, a coalition of more than 35 collectives throughout Mexico seeking justice in the wake of the increasing post-transitional violence and disappearances starting in 2006 in Mexico. Members of this group, in addition to supporting families affected by disappearances, fought for the creation and implementation of the the first General Law (Ley General) on disappearances. FUNDEM also looks to bring transparency to disappearances in Mexico through the collection and publication of stories and statistics on disappearances.
Alas de Esperanza: Native to Coahuila, this group is composed of and led by members of the civil society in Mexico. It aims to locate disappeared individuals and provide support to families whose relatives have been disappeared. This group defines itself as being without political bias and monetary ends.
Familias Unidas: A community group based in Jalisco, this organization has a mission identical to that of Alas de Esperanza: to find those who have disappeared in Jalisco. Both Alas de Esperanza and Familias Unidas use Facebook to connect users and share information on missing individuals.
Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos. A.C. (CADHAC) : A non-profit, civil society group headquartered in Nuevo León, this organization defends and advocates for human rights. It additionally educates the public on human rights and their violation in Mexico. This organization provides legal, psychological, and emotional support to individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by disappearances in Mexico.
Agrupación de Mujeres Organizadas por los Ejecutados, Secuestrados y Desaparecidos de Nuevo León (AMORES DNL): A group within CADHAC that is made up of and led by the families of people who are victims of forced disappearances. They provide psychological services for children and adults, legal support to CADHAC, facilitate a working group made up of families of the disappeared and work to bring public awareness to justice initiatives for the victims of forced disappearances.
Decapitations of cartels: The official strategy that has been adopted by the Mexican federal government in its management of cartels. The “decapitation” of cartels consists in the identification, pursuance, and capture of cartel leaders, the confiscation of funds and weapons from cartels, and the destabilization of these highly sophisticated groups.
Disappearances: The studies that are presented on this website have defined disappearance to demarcate a general category of crimes that have been both committed with and without clear evidence of state involvement. This definition recognizes the judicial weight of the term and the fact that it is used to name a type of action that constitutes one of the most serious violations of human rights in international human rights law; that disappearances, in certain circumstances, are defined as a crime against humanity.
While, in this report, there do exist cases in which evidence of the involvement of State agents is present and that have developed in the context of the collusion between state and organized crime actors, we have chosen to use the term disappearances instead of forced disappearances to reflect the multidimensionality of this phenomenon. In summary, with the employment of the term “disappearance”, we are hoping to illuminate the breath of this social phenomenon that involves a wide variety of both processes and actors that, of course, includes judicial actors, but is not limited to this sphere.
Human development index: The Human Development Index, maintained by the UN Development Programme, highlights countries not just in terms of their economic stability or output, but also in terms of the well-being and development of their citizens. The Index is a measure of average achievement in key factors of human development, which include a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living.
La Ley General en materia de desaparición: Implemented in 2018, this law is the culmination of a lobbying campaign by civil society organizations and families of the disappeared, many of whom know firsthand the reality of disappearances. The General Law established a novel regulatory and institutional framework to fulfill the objectives of searching for disappeared persons, investigating crimes and identifying remains found anywhere in the country. The General Law establishes two crimes: the crime of enforced disappearance, which can be committed by a state actor or with the acquiescence of a state actor; and disappearance committed by private individuals who deprive a person of liberty for the purpose of concealing the victim or his/ her fate or whereabouts. This law thus recognizes the reality on the ground in Mexico. The terms of the law must be implemented in each of the 32 federal states in the country.
Levantón: A colloquial term made popular by the Mexican government and used in press descriptions of disappearances. The negative connotation of this word is meant to imply that a disappeared individual was a criminal and/or involved in organized crime. Thus, in describing disappearances as levantones, government officials and press outlets alike place responsibility on victims of disappearances for their fate.
Práctica generalizada (desapariciones) [generalized practice of disappearance]: In the context of human rights violations, such as the disappearance of an individual, a generalized practice comes to be such when a criminal act or human rights violation that is carried out on a large scale. The scale of the practice can be determined by the multiplicity of actors, by the number of victims, and/ or by the intensity of the consequences affected by such actions.