02292020What's Hot:

In Mexico, a Truck Full of Cadavers Takes a Mystery Road Trip

MEXICO CITY — The morgue had a problem: It had run out of space for fresh corpses. Violence was soaring and new bodies were arriving every day, yet there was no place to store them.

Authorities in the western Mexican state of Jalisco hit on a short-term solution: They rented a refrigerated truck and parked it at the morgue, the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences, near the state capital, Guadalajara. That was two years ago.

The stopgap measure seemed to be working fine — until the truck, with some 170 corpses on board, was driven off the lot on Sept. 7 and began a strange journey around the Guadalajara area, trailed by resident complaints of putrid smells and human rights denunciations of the inhumane treatment of the cadavers.

“Such events represent a lack of respect for the dignity of the deceased and violate their fundamental rights and those of their family members,” the National Human Rights Commission said Tuesday in a statement.

Who gave the order to send the refrigerated truck on this unusual peregrination, and why, remain unclear and are the subject of a government investigation.

The truck was eventually returned to the morgue after a 10-day absence, but it has become a gruesome symbol of the worsening violence afflicting Mexico and a deep embarrassment for the authorities in Jalisco. Like officials elsewhere in the country, they have been wrestling with the increasingly difficult logistics of death amid soaring homicide tallies.

There were 18,994 homicide victims in Mexico during the first seven months of this year, a 20 percent increase over the same period in 2017, according to the federal government. Last year, the nation’s homicide tally hit a record high, with 28,702 victims.

The state of Jalisco has seen a particularly sharp increase in violence, with 1,243 homicides reported in the first seven months of this year, up 47 percent from the same period last year.

Experts attribute much of the violence in Jalisco to battles between organized criminal groups for control of drug trafficking routes and markets as well as to local criminal enterprises.

As violence soared in recent years across the country, sometimes spreading to places that were previously calm, morgues have borne some of the administrative brunt, with some approaching or exceeding their capacity.

In Chilpancingo, the capital of the southern state of Guerrero, local news media reported last year that the morgue was storing more than double the number of bodies it was built for, causing unsanitary conditions. Government workers protested working conditions, forcing the office to close temporarily.

Marisela Gómez Cobos, a top prosecutor for the Jalisco attorney general’s office, said on Tuesday that the truck that left the Jalisco morgue carried mainly the victims of crimes and that none had been identified yet by relatives.

The truck was eventually parked in a privately owned warehouse in the municipality of Tlaquepaque, in Guadalajara’s greater metropolitan area, where it sat for a week, Ms. Gómez said.

It was then driven to Tlajomulco, where it stayed overnight last Friday, she said. Local residents told the Mexican news media that it had been stashed in a field.

On Saturday, it was taken to a compound belonging to the state attorney general’s office, and on Monday it was returned to the morgue.

The truck remained at all times under refrigeration, Ms. Gómez said.

But residents at various points along the truck’s odd path complained of smells wafting from its interior.

Officials said that the state has been trying to build a new annex to the morgue to handle the overflow, but a protest by neighbors stopped the project two weeks ago.

On Monday, the state governor fired the director of the morgue, Luis Octavio Cotero. Ms. Gómez explained that Mr. Cotero had been responsible for ensuring the safekeeping of the bodies at the morgue.

But Mr. Cotero said in an interview on Mexican radio that he was not to blame for the transfer of the corpses.

“The attorney general decides the fate of those bodies,” he said, adding that the forensics institute “has no power to move or send or take or bring bodies.”

Paulina Villegas contributed reporting

Source: NYT > World

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic