Mexico creates database of clandestine graves

Forensic and civil protection personnel work at a clandestine grave where local authorities have found at least 16 bodies, in Agua Escondida neighborhood,in Tonala, Jalisco state, Mexico, in October 2018

Mexico said Tuesday it has created a database on the hundreds of clandestine graves found in recent years as the country struggles with a wave of violent crime linked to drug trafficking.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, said his government wanted to come clean on the graves that are regularly discovered across the country and the thousands of bodies found in them -- mostly believed to be victims of drug cartels.

He blamed his predecessors for leaving him the "inheritance" of a militarized war on drugs, which has been accompanied by a spiral of violence since it was launched in 2006.

"We have to inform the public about these clandestine graves. Although it may hurt, we need to know what really happened and, unfortunately, continues happening," he told a press conference.

Mexico's under-secretary for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, said the database covered the clandestine graves found over the past 20 years.

Such figures had so far been kept by the National Human Rights Commission, which recorded 855 clandestine graves containing 1,548 bodies from 2007 to 2016.

But independent research indicates there may be far more, Encinas said. One study identified 1,978 clandestine graves containing 2,884 bodies.

There are more than 40,000 missing persons in Mexico. More than 250,000 more have been murdered since 2006, when former president Felipe Calderon deployed the army to fight drug cartels.

Lopez Obrador has vowed a change in strategy, declaring the drug war over. But he has faced criticism for appointing a military general to lead his newly launched police force, the national guard.