With 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
I thought this was interesting amid all the failed state stuff out there:
EL PASO — Sen. John Kerry and two members of his Foreign Relations Committee heard a clear message Monday in El Paso: Sending U.S. soldiers to the Mexico-U.S. border is unnecessary.
Speaking almost with one voice, police officers, politicians and border experts who testified at a Senate field hearing said a military buildup would be of no help as the United States tries to assist Mexico in its war against the drug cartels.
President Obama Leaves Door Open for Troops on Mexican Border, CBS’ Face the Nation:
Though he does not believe violence along the U.S. Mexico border poses an “existential threat” to Americans, President Obama says he is considering deploying U.S. troops to the border area.
“Obviously there have been calls to increase National Guard troops on the borders,” Mr. Obama noted in an interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS News’ Face the Nation Sunday.
“That’s something that we are considering,” he said. “But we wanna first see whether some of the steps that we’ve taken can help quell some of the violence.”
The president said it is essential to continue consulting with the Mexican government.
SecDef Gates Says Mexico Not Close to Being ‘Failed State,’ Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: A couple of more questions for the lightening round. Mexico.
The Pentagon issued a report in November on the growing drug violence there that said this, “An unstable Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States.”
Mr. Secretary, how likely is that scenario that the Mexican government loses control of part of the country?
GATES: I don’t think that’s a likely scenario at this point. I think that a lot of the violence is among or between the cartels as they strive for control of certain areas in Mexico.
I think President Calderon has acted with enormous courage and forcefully in sending troops in to try and get control of that situation. And I think that – as I think Admiral Blair testified just in the last couple of days, I think that the chances of the Mexican government losing control of some part of their country or becoming a failed stated is – are very low.
Lots of news lately about the drug war in Mexico which is spilling across our own borders. The New York Times has a great interactive graphic to add some perspective. Click the screen grab below to see the original.