Prominent figures in the arts and culture have joined a campaign to dramatize the plight of people forcibly disappeared by successive Mexican governments over the last four decades.

Each participating artist or intellectual is sponsoring one of the more than 600 people whose forced disappearances are "perfectly documented," a spokesperson for the organization H.I.J.O.S. Mexico, Valentina Lopez, said

The notables were photographed holding up pictures of the disappeared for a poster campaign and listened to accounts of the lives of the missing.

"We wanted to recover the life of each disappeared person, because when they disappeared what was also lost were their stories, and that's why each sponsor is told about who the person is with whom they are being photographed," Lopez said.

The earliest forced disappearance documented by H.I.J.O.S Mexico is that of teacher Epifanio Aviles, who was kidnapped in 1969.

Since then, according to Lopez, "all (Mexican) governments have practiced political forced disappearance of their opponents" and the situation has become "more bloody" under current President Felipe Calderon, who took office in December 2006.

Authorities now use the drug-war carnage that has claimed more than 40,000 lives in less than five years as a pretext to blame cartels and gangs for the "disappearance of members of civil society," she said.

"It is a method that has intensified. We're not talking about dirty war, but state terrorism," Lopez said.

Mexican authorities' 1968-1980 "dirty war" against the left included assassinations, abductions, torture and several massacres, notably the killing of hundreds of student protesters in Mexico City in October 1968.

One of those taking part in the H.I.J.O.S. campaign is acclaimed writer Elena Poniatowska, who told Efe she has been very concerned about politically motivated disappearances since the son of her friend Rosario Ibarra de Piedra went missing in police custody more than 35 years ago.

Jesus Ibarra Piedra was arrested in 1975 on charges he belonged to an armed communist group suspected in the abduction and killing of a businessman. His mother subsequently became active in the struggle on behalf of the disappeared and is now a senator.

H.I.J.O.S. Mexico's Lopez emphasized that forced disappearances are not a thing of the past, citing the case of grassroots leader Victor Ayala, who was taken into custody by police in 2010 and remains unaccounted for.

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