For more than a decade, cartels across Mexico have taken out their rivals with utter impunity, tossing their remains into unmarked graves across the country. Soldiers and law enforcement officers often adopt the same approach, leaving many families too terrified to ask for help from a government they see as complicit.

It is both highly efficient and cruel: Without a body, there can be no case. And the disappearances inflict a lasting torture on enemies — robbing them of...
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