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Torture, Disappearances, Illegal Raids: The Mexican Army’s Drug War

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      “The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, acts of torture and illegal raids in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims, their families, political leaders and human rights monitors.”

In a detailed exposé published on the front page of last Thursday’s Washington Post, reporters Steve Fainaru and William Booth draw on testimonies from victims, their family members, political officials and human rights monitors to illustrate some of the brutal tactics that the Mexican Army has employed in its efforts to combat drug related violence. Horrific and heartbreaking stories from rural and urban communities, including Puerto Las Ollas, Guerrero and Tijuana, Baja California, are representative of too many of the abuses that have occurred.

      “In Puerto Las Ollas, a mountain village of 50 people in the southern state of Guerrero, residents recounted how soldiers seeking information last month stuck needles under the fingernails of a disabled 37-year-old farmer, jabbed a knife into the back of his 13-year-old nephew, fired on a pastor, and stole food, milk, clothing and medication.

       In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, two dozen policemen who were arrested on drug charges in March alleged that, to extract confessions, soldiers beat them, held plastic bags over their heads until some lost consciousness, strapped their feet to a ceiling while dunking their heads in water and applied electric shocks, according to court documents, letters and interviews with their relatives and defense lawyers.”

As noted in the article and chronicled in a recent Human Rights Watch report , impunity for these abuses remains the norm as Mexico repeatedly fails to hold members of the armed forces who commit human rights violations accountable, undermining efforts to reduce violence and increase public security. An official from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission notes that “army doctors covered up some torture cases by omitting physical evidence from medical reports before suspects were handed over to civilian authorities.” 

The concerns raised in the article garnered attention in the Mexican press and in House Committee on Government Affairs and Oversight hearing in which the Chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), commented in his opening remarks that “… there is a front page article in today’s Washington Post which reads, “Mexico accused of torture in drug war: Army using brutality to fight trafficking, rights groups say.” As the effort in Mexico to address the drug threat continues, we must be mindful that abuses from the state are equally intolerable.”

In the coming weeks, the U.S. State Department will deliver a report to Congress on Mexico’s human rights record. As noted in the article, approximately $91 million of the first two installments of the U.S. counternarcotics assistance package to Mexico, the “Merida Initiative,” cannot be released until Congress accepts the State Department’s findings. We strongly urge policymakers to take these concerns into account and withhold the U.S. funding subject to the human rights requirements in U.S. law. Congress will not be doing any favors for the people of Mexico by overlooking this persistent lack of accountability for abuses committed by the military and disregard for human rights. 

To read the full Washington Post article click here.
To read two articles from the Mexican press click here and here.