Mexico: torture and disappearances on the rise

Complaints about abuses by Mexican police and soldiers have increased dramatically over the past seven years, according to testimony by Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, the president of the government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), to the Mexican Senate's Human Rights Commission on Nov. 21. Plascencia was reporting principally on the period from Jan. 1, 2005 to July 31, 2012, which overlaps the administration of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and his militarization of the "war on drugs." Calderón took office on Dec. 1, 2006; he will be succeeded this Dec. 1 by Enrique Peña Nieto.

During the 2005-2012 period the CNDH received 5,568 complaints about alleged failures to follow required procedures in issuing or executing warrants for searches, Plascencia said. The agency is also investigating 2,126 cases of people who were reportedly disappeared. There were more than 9,000 complaints citing arbitrary detentions, a 121% increase during the period. In 2005 there was only one complaint of torture; in 2011 the number of complaints about torture or other cruel and degrading treatment had risen to 2,040. Since 2005 the CNDH has received a total of 34,385 complaints against federal public servants, with an 84% increase just in the last three years. The alleged abuses were "mainly concentrated under the headings of illegal searches, forcible disappearances, arbitrary detentions, executions and torture," Plascencia said. (La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 22)

On Nov. 21 Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero publicly apologized at a ceremony in Acapulco for the deaths of two students and a gas station worker during a confrontation on Dec. 12, 2011 between police and students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in the Guerrero village of Ayotzinapa. The apology was in response to a March recommendation by the CNDH, which also required compensation for the victims' families and for people injured in the incident. Víctor Hugo Pérez, human rights director for the federal Public Security Secretariat (SSP), was also present to offer his "profound and heartfelt apology" for the role of federal police agents in the confrontation.

The brother of the gas station worker was the only relative of a victim to attend. The other families and students from the college boycotted the ceremony; instead, they held a press conference where they demanded punishment for the officials they say are responsible for the killings. State police agents Ismael Matadamas Salinas and Rey David Cortés Flores are the only suspects detained in the case, although the Guerrero legislature is considering a petition for lifting the immunity of former state chief prosecutor Guerrero Alberto López Rosas and former state public security secretary Ramón Almonte Borja. (LJ, Nov. 20, Nov. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 25.

See our last post on Mexico's human rights crisis.