Swine Flu Steps on Mexico’s Human Rights Problem

May 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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mexWith all the hubbub about Swine Flu in Mexico, the release of a Human Rights Watch report on the country got short shrift earlier this week.

The group says that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has militarized the government’s fight against the drug cartels severely and that the military has committed human rights abuses with “impunity” all over the country.

Titled, “Uniform Impunity: Mexico’s Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations,” and running 76 pages, the report details 17 cases of human rights violations involving more than 70 people.  The military abuses of authority include murder, forced detention and disappearances.

The Mexican culture of corruption is well documented at all levels.  From personal experience and that of family members who lived there for ten years, I can tell you that it starts at the border and reaches all levels of civilian authority.  Bribes are a way of life.

But when the military is granted civil policing authority that’s a recipe for disaster.  Bad people with guns too often want more than a “fine.”

Abuses by the Mexican military included:

  • In a May 2007 case, for example, soldiers detained eight people after a shootout between the military and alleged drug traffickers. Soldiers took the detainees, none of whom were involved in the shootout, to military installations, where the soldiers beat and kicked four of them, placing their heads in black bags, and forcing them to lie on the floor blindfolded. A federal prosecutor requested that the military investigate the soldiers.  The military closed its criminal investigation in a month and sent it to the archives, arguing there was no evidence that the soldiers had committed a crime.
  • In another example from August 2007, five soldiers detained a man, held him incommunicado in military installations for over 24 hours, beat and kicked him, placed a cloth bag on his head, tied his arms and feet, poured water on his face while they hit his abdomen, and applied electric shocks to his stomach. A federal prosecutor requested that a military prosecutor investigate the case. Despite the existence of medical exams documenting the torture, the military closed its investigation, determining it did not find evidence that the soldiers had committed a crime.

Human Rights Watch is recommending that Mexico:

  • Allegations of military abuse of civilians be handled in civil courts
  • Full cooperation by the military with civil courts and the civil justice system
  • Reforms in the military justice system
  • Increased transparency on the part of the military justice system


Anticlimax: Blagojevich Indicted

April 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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From the Chicago Tribune:

The criminal complaint charged Blagojevich with attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama and seeking the firing of Tribune editorial writers in return for state help on the sale of Wrigley Field. The ballpark and newspaper are owned by Tribune Co.

While those allegations are repeated in today’s charges, the 19-count indictment also includes allegations that convicted insider Antoin “Tony” Rezko steered real estate commissions to former first lady Patti Blagojevich despite her performing no work and paid cash to Monk for a car and home improvements. The indictment claims Blagojevich attempted to extort a U.S. congressman for campaign cash by withholding a $2 million state grant to a public school in the congressman’s district.


Pakistani Aid Won’t Disappear Down Rat Hole This Time: Obama Administration

March 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Encouraging stance on the aid we give to Pakistan.  It’s been well-documented that much of the billions which have been directed to Pakistan since 9/11 has disappeared down a rat hole.  In a briefing today in Washington, President Obama’s point man on Afghan-Pak policy, Bruce Riedel, said that U.S. funds will be more closely monitored this time:

Q    Thank you.  The President mentioned the Kerry-Lugar bill, billions of dollars’ worth of aid to Pakistan.  He also said that Pakistan won’t be given a blank check.  So I’m wondering what restrictions does the administration want to see on that money specifically?

And also, how do you react to statements from some senators, such as Senator Levin, who have said that this strategy places too much dependence on the Pakistani government to deal with extremists, and perhaps gives too much of a reliance on them to help us make progress in Afghanistan?

MR. RIEDEL:  I’m not going to comment on Senator Levin’s remarks.  I’ll say this:  For the last eight years, Pakistan received billions of dollars in support from the United States — much of it was unaccountable; much the Pakistanis don’t even know where it went.

As the President indicated in his speech, we’re going to make sure that there is rigorous oversight by an Inspector General’s office.  And we’re going to work very, very intensively with our Pakistani partners, the democratically elected civilian leadership in Pakistan, to see that we’re moving in the right direction, in the same direction that we want to go.

(Source: White House Transcript)


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