When Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012, he inherited a country reeling from an epidemic of drug violence that had taken the lives of more than 60,000 Mexicans in six years. The “war on drugs” launched by his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, had produced disastrous results. Not only had it failed to rein in the country’s powerful criminal groups, but it had led to a dramatic increase in grave human rights violations committed by the security forces sent to confront them. Rather than strengthening public security, these abuses had exacerbated a climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear.

Human Rights Watch has documented nearly 250 such “disappearances” that have occurred since 2007. In more than 140 of these cases, evidence suggests that these were enforced disappearances—meaning that state agents participated directly in the crime, or indirectly through support or acquiescence. These crimes were committed by members of every security force involved in public security operations, sometimes acting in conjunction with organized crime. In the remaining cases, we were not able to determine based on available evidence whether state actors participated in the crime, though they may have.

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