You may not know who Israel Arzate Meléndez is, but we think you should hear his story.
In February 2010, Israel was picked up by Mexican soldiers in Ciudad Juarez. Sounds terrifying, right? Well, it gets worse. He was then taken to a military base where he was beaten, given electric shocks, and suffocated repeatedly until he finally gave in and confessed to a crime he didn’t commit. No one seemed to mind that it was a false confession, only offered to make the torture stop.
During his trial, Israel informed the judge that he had been tortured into giving his confession, but instead of looking into the alleged abuse to see if it was true the judge ordered the trial to move on. Now, Israel sits in a Mexican jail.
Through the Merida Initiative, the United States gives money to the Mexican military, the same military that tortured Israel Arzate Meléndez. But did you know that Congress has committed to withhold 15% of these funds if the State Department decides that Mexico is violating certain human rights requirements? At the end of June, the State Department will be releasing their report on human rights in Mexico and will recommend whether to send Mexico that 15% of funds. We know that Mexico isn’t meeting the human rights requirements, Israel’s story makes that clear. But we’re worried the State Department will say they are.
Some members of Congress have taken a stand by writing a letter that will go to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to do a serious and honest assessment of all human rights abuses by the Mexican military and police, as well as Mexico’s failure to hold violators accountable. But before they drop the letter in the mail, we are working to get as many of their congressional colleagues as possible to sign on too, so Secretary Clinton knows they mean business. And we need your help!
It’s no coincidence that since 2007, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón deployed the military and federal police to combat drug cartels, there’s been a five-fold increase in human rights abuses by the Mexican government. We’re talking torture, rape, murder and forced disappearances – serious human rights crimes. What’s worse is that the perpetrators are getting away with it. Despite the requirement that military abuses be investigated and prosecuted in civilian courts—these abuses are still being investigated and prosecuted within the military justice system, where fellow soldiers are more likely to protect than punish their colleagues. Out of 4,000 investigations opened in the military justice system since 2007, only 29 members of the military have been sentenced. That’s less than 1%!
Thanks for all you do to help change U.S. policy toward Latin America.