Forced Labor Accounts For Thousands Missing In Mexico’s Drug War

A recent report indicates that civilians caught in the crossfire between drug cartels and the Mexican government may be also serving as human chattel, forced to perform labor in gang-run camps.

Over the last six years, a bloody stalemate has been in place between the Mexican federal government and the cartels, with an estimated 70,000 civilians killed in the process. At least 1,000 murders linked to organized crime have taken place each month since President Enrique Pena Nieto took over in December. Beyond the death, however, another facet to the conflict lurks just out of sight. In an article whose title translates to “Captives in Hell,” Spanish-language magazine Proceso features interviews with victims’ relatives and members of civil society, all of whom tell of a vast system of forced labor throughout Mexico.

These laborers are counted among the 26,000 “disappeared” in Mexico — civilians who have vanished without a trace — of whom many are assumed to be dead. In their interviews, civil society groups tell of some of these captives being alive but forced to perform “jobs” on behalf of the cartels. These can include “forced killings, preparing marijuana, constructing tunnels, cleaning safe houses, preparing food, installing communications equipment, and acting as lookouts or sex slaves.”

The idea of cartels kidnapping individuals to perform specialized tasks is also well-documented, lending credibility to Procesco’s report. The Zetas — one of the deadliest gangs in Mexico — reportedly caused the forced disappearances of engineers in the recent past, forced to service the cartel’s sophisticated communications equipment. At one point, the Zetas’ infrastructure, supported through this forced labor, was enough to completely bypass the rest of the country’s communications’ systems entirely.

– Read the entire article in Think Progress.