Forensic Diplomacy and International Technical Cooperation: The Case of Mexico’s Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification
Mexico’s Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification (MEIF) was created in December 2019 to implement an exceptional and effective human identification intervention in response to the nation’s forensic crisis. What has been called the “forensic crisis” has at least two components. The most evident is a large and growing backlog of unidentified human remains (currently over 52,000), and the second is an institutional crisis of forensic services (lack of infrastructure and standardized procedures). This crisis has been exacerbated by different peaks in the increase of violence in Mexico over the past decades, the limited capacities and resources available to the prosecutor’s offices, and the results of the efforts of families of missing persons and the National Search System throughout the country to find and recover unidentified deceased persons. A feature of the Mechanism, which delivered its first annual report in August 2022, is its condition as a joint entity created by agreement of the National Search System (SNB) with the support of the United Nations System in Mexico (UNS). The UNS is represented by Sharon Bisell, an international cooperation specialist, who has been tasked with identifying a critical path and reporting progress within that critical path. Based on document analysis and interviews with key MEIF actors, this paper examines international technical cooperation as a form of scientific (forensic) diplomacy in Mexico.
Vivette García-Deister is a Professor of the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and holds the Hebe Vessuri Chair in Latin American Science, Technology, and Society. Her research focuses on the history of race science and the epistemologies of biomedical and forensic genetics. She assesses the impact of biomedical and forensic genetics infrastructures and practices on issues of racism, health, and justice in Mexico. Vivette participates in several international research networks, among them the CNRS-Paris based Transnational Transdisciplinary Network on Society and Genetics (TranSocGen), the Network for the Study of Science and Knowledge in Latin America and the Caribbean (RECSLAC), and the Future of Facts in Latin America working group. Her work has been published in international academic journals based both in the global north and in Latin America, and in non-academic spaces such as SLATE Future Tense, Este País, and Letras Libres. Vivette is the 2023-27 Editor-in-Chief of the journal Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology, and Society (Taylor & Francis).