In Mexico, families fight red tape to find the missing

In Mexico, families fight red tape to find the missing
Relatives of twelve people who disappeared in a bar named "Heaven" protest in front of the Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City on July 26, 2013.

MEXICO CITY - When 12 young bar goers vanished in the heart of Mexico City three months ago, their relatives rushed to hospitals and police stations desperately searching for missing loved ones.

Frustrated with the investigation's slow progress, the relatives looking for children and siblings blocked streets in protest, won meetings with the city's attorney general and barged into his press conferences when they felt they were being neglected.

The mass kidnapping has cast a harsh spotlight on Mexico's struggle to solve thousands of disappearances and the efforts families have to undertake themselves in the face of all-too-often uncooperative officials or shoddy police work.

"Authorities make an effort to investigate in those cases where families make enough noise that the cost for authorities of negligence is too high to ignore," said Nik Steinberg, a Human Rights Watch researcher who wrote a report on Mexico's disappeared.

"If the families don't exert public pressure in cases of disappearances, they have little hope of investigations even being opened," Steinberg told AFP.

The Heaven bar case is Mexico's most high-profile mass kidnapping since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December, vowing to reduce the abductions and murders linked to drug cartels that vexed his predecessor.

"The Heaven case is emblematic because it shows that Mexico is still unable to respond to disappearances committed by organised crime," said Pilar Tavera, director of Propuesta Civica, a civil society group, though she noted it was city prosecutors who led the investigation.

In an effort to crack cases, the federal attorney general's office said Monday it would offer rewards for tips that help them find missing people.

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