Mexico: in search of clues, the parents of the missing turn to the children

Mexique: en quĂȘte d'indices, les parents de disparus se tournent vers les enfants

Clowns to make you laugh, but also to speak: to Escuchapa, a locality poor in the south of Mexico beset by violence, the parents of the missing are turning to more young people, in search of clues to find their loved ones.

Escuchapa, 600 inhabitants, is part of the long list of places in Mexico eaten by the spiral of violence and the disappearances, which have multiplied since 2006.

The government has militarized the offensive in the fight against drugs, with the consequence of fragmenting the criminal factions and make them more violent.

According to the official figures, the country has more than 40,000 disappeared. A multitude of tombs underground were discovered in the State of Guerreiro, where violence is common between criminal factions for control of the routes of drug trafficking. Extortion and kidnappings are also common.

In the midst of this violence, the drug traffickers have recruited, sometimes forcibly, of countless children as “hawks” (employees) and contract killers.

The circus show, which takes place on the basketball court of Escuchapa, is intended for primary school children. It is one of the tools developed by the brigades of research of missing persons, composed of families, activists and volunteers. Other methods used to: search for clandestine graves by probing the earth, or beg during the masses of the faithful, that they reveal under the guise of anonymity what they know.

The clowns and the acrobats are the parents of the missing who are desperately seeking information to find their loved ones.

“Children are very receptive and they have information that we need (…) They see armed men pass by in pick-ups”, explains to the AFP Maria Herrera, age 70, who is seeking four son missing.

Has Escuchapa, the clowns begin by entertaining the kids with an hour of gags and funny stories to put them in confidence. And then, by contrast, they explain why they are there, and their terrible quest of tombs in the underground economy.

“We explain how we do our research and we tell them that we need clues,” says Airam Lopez, 29 years of age. Her makeup clown hides a sentence, unfathomable: she is looking for her husband, who disappeared in 2011.

– “Infantry of the narco-traffic” –

In this region, the children grow up in the middle of the stories of kidnappings and killings. But besides the fact of being exposed to violence, they are involved more and more in spite of themselves.

They have become the “new infantry of the narco-traffic”, explains to the AFP Alejandro Almanzan, specialist of the powerful mexican cartels. The little ones are “recruited” with the drug (…) or force. Their age helps them because they are not sent to prison”.

At the end of the show, the children are divided into small groups. Some learn how to do acrobatics, others make the line. During this time, a third group is invited to draw. “There are a mailbox of the peace” where they can drop off the drawings, or messages they want to send in the clowns.

During such sessions, “we were given several clues”, is happy with Ariam Lopez.

The brigade of research is very cautious: the identity of informants is never revealed, not even to the authorities.

The information gathered is valuable in a country where over 90% of violent deaths remain unpunished.

According to the authorities, there are probably more than a thousand of mass graves in Mexico. Added to this is 26.000 unidentified bodies.

During the two weeks of the last campaign of research of the brigade, and seven dead bodies and more than 100 human remains have been found.