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Mexican families searching for missing relatives unite to draw attention to their plight

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Mexican families searching for missing relatives unite to draw attention to their plight
News

News

Mexican families searching for missing relatives unite to draw attention to their plight

2024-04-20 10:33 Last Updated At:10:41

TEPOTZOTLAN, Mexico (AP) — Dozens of women and men searched a garbage dump outside Mexico’s capital Friday looking for signs of missing loved ones, working without the protection of authorities as part of a nationwide effort to raise the profile of those who risk their lives to find others.

Under a blazing sun and amid foul odors, they picked through the dump and other sites in the town of Tepotzotlan in Mexico state, which hugs Mexico City on three sides.

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A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

TEPOTZOTLAN, Mexico (AP) — Dozens of women and men searched a garbage dump outside Mexico’s capital Friday looking for signs of missing loved ones, working without the protection of authorities as part of a nationwide effort to raise the profile of those who risk their lives to find others.

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative joins in a search for missing loved ones in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative joins in a search for missing loved ones in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Maria Herrera, center, searches for her disappeared children, two who went missing in Guerrero in 2008 and two who went missing in Veracruz in 2010, in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Maria Herrera, center, searches for her disappeared children, two who went missing in Guerrero in 2008 and two who went missing in Veracruz in 2010, in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Hundreds of collectives across Mexico are participating in search operations this weekend to draw attention to the work they are left to do without official help in a country with nearly 100,000 people registered as missing.

The work is dangerous. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented nine cases since 2019 of women who were slain over their work hunting for missing relatives. Other organizations in Mexico have recorded even more cases.

The groups participating this weekend decided to forgo government protection as a way to protest authorities’ frequent indifference to disappearances.

“We feel abandoned by the state to respond to this situation, which is a real national emergency,” some 250 collectives making up the National Unification of Searching Families said in a statement.

Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera has been searching for four brothers who disappeared in Guerrero and Veracruz states more than a decade ago. He said uniting search collectives across Mexico raises consciousness.

“With the state, without the state and beyond the state, no one has to stop” searching, he said.

In the work at the dump Friday, searchers used a backhoe as well shovels and picks to dig through debris. Metal rods were pushed into ground and then sniffed for the scent of death.

While disappearances have plagued Mexico for decades, the phenomenon exploded in 2006 when authorities declared war on the drug cartels. For years, the government looked the other way as violence increased and families of the missing were forced to remain silent or carefully search for their relatives.

The administration of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has invested in creating a national database of the missing and the National Search Commission for Missing Persons.

But he drew the ire of many families and advocates last year by ordering a recount of the missing. It was seen as an effort to lower Mexico’s embarrassingly high total and it did, moving from some 113,000 last year to a revised total of just short of 100,000.

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative searches for missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative stands by as a mechanical shovel removes earth from a clandestine grave during a search for missing loved ones, in Tepotzotlán, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative joins in a search for missing loved ones in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

A relative joins in a search for missing loved ones in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Maria Herrera, center, searches for her disappeared children, two who went missing in Guerrero in 2008 and two who went missing in Veracruz in 2010, in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Maria Herrera, center, searches for her disappeared children, two who went missing in Guerrero in 2008 and two who went missing in Veracruz in 2010, in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Relatives search for their missing loved ones in a clandestine grave in Zumpango, Mexico, Friday, April 19, 2024. Hundreds of collectives searching for missing loved ones fanned out across Mexico on Friday as part of a coordinated effort to raise the profile of efforts that are led by the families of the tens of thousands of missing across Mexico without support from the government. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rep. Thomas Massie’s role in the failed bid to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson didn’t harm his standing with Republican voters in his Kentucky district, where he easily won his primary election on Tuesday in the conservative stronghold.

Massie far outdistanced challengers Eric Deters and Michael McGinnis to maintain his hold on the seat representing the 4th District, which stretches across northern Kentucky. With no Democratic opponent in the fall, Massie’s primary victory cleared his way to claim another term in November.

The libertarian-leaning congressman said his victory amounted to a “referendum on thousands of independent votes I have cast in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Kentucky’s 4th District.”

“I want to thank the voters for trusting me to represent them again, and I look forward to continuing our fight for personal liberty, economic freedom, fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government,” Massie said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, easily defeated three challengers in the 5th District covering eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. No Democrat is running for the seat. Rogers is a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which positions him to steer federal money back to his Appalachian district.

Rep. Morgan McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, coasted to victory over two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. In November, he'll be challenged by Republican Mike Craven, who won his primary in the Democratic-leaning district.

Republican Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will be opposed by Democrat Erin Marshall after both were unopposed in the 1st District primary. The Bluegrass State’s other congressmen — Republicans Brett Guthrie and Andy Barr — were unopposed in the primary.

Massie’s congressional race drew attention for his reputation of defying his party’s leaders — from then-President Donald Trump to the House speaker — without being punished by his constituents.

Massie aligned with fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the recent attempt to remove Johnson from his post as speaker. Massie co-sponsored Greene’s ouster resolution, which was overwhelmingly rejected by their colleagues.

Before the primary, Massie sounded unconcerned about any blowback from voters for trying to remove the speaker — nicknamed “MAGA Mike Johnson” by Trump. The former president remains enormously popular in the district.

“It’s a lot of inside baseball and ultimately, because he’s still the speaker, I think a lot of people don’t care,” Massie said last week.

Four years ago, Massie drew Trump’s wrath when the congressman singlehandedly caused a delay in passing a massive COVID-19 relief package. Trump called the Kentuckian a “third rate Grandstander.”

An unapologetic Massie said he tried to hold up what he considered to be an unconstitutional vote for a wasteful bill. Massie deflected Trump’s jabs by joking he was at least “second rate” as a grandstander.

Despite the presidential smackdown, Massie cruised to reelection that year. Two years later, Massie picked up the former president’s endorsement on his way to another reelection victory.

“They still appreciate somebody who will come up here and vote the way he believes is best, even if it’s at odds with Trump sometimes,” Massie said of his constituents. “So that’s sort of my brand at this point.”

In another twist, Massie supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed bid for the White House, again risking Trump’s anger. The ex-president didn’t give an endorsement in Massie’s primary race this year.

Massie's challengers included Deters, a former gubernatorial candidate who played up his steadfast support for Trump and portrayed Massie as a “goofball” lacking accomplishments in Congress.

Since joining Congress in late 2012, Massie has been known as an avid deficit hawk and staunch gun-rights supporter. In a recent post on the social platform X, Massie wrote: “America is on a path that won’t end well. We are borrowing money at an unsustainable rate, accumulating enemies through endless war, and eroding rights like free speech & privacy.”

Kentucky’s most contentious campaign in the fall is likely to be over a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow taxpayer money to flow to private or charter schools. If it is ratified by voters, state lawmakers could then decide whether to support private or charter school education with public funds. The state's popular Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, will align with the Kentucky Education Association, a group representing tens of thousands of public school educators, in opposing the measure.

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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