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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

jueves, junio 14, 2007

Mexican Army Kills 3 Children and 2 Adults at Checkpoint! (plus article on militarization of Michoacan by John Gibler)

Ever since Mexico’s brand new president, Felipe Calderón, let the Mexican Army out of its barracks, allegedly to wage war against drug cartels, many innocent civilians have paid the price with their lives and/or other egregious human rights abuses. One can read reports of those who are shot, killed and/or jailed every day in the Mexican press. Whether a war against drug cartels is the real motive for unleashing an army constituted to defend the country against foreign attack is currently the subject of heated debate in Mexico. The incident described below is just one of many fueling the debate.

Two women and three children whose vehicle failed to stop at an army checkpoint were allegedly shot and killed by nineteen members of the Mexican Army. The family was traveling to a funeral when they were ordered to stop at the military checkpoint near the village of La Joya, according to local media. When they failed to stop, soldiers reportedly opened fire on the van. Police identified the dead as Alicia Esparza Parra, 17; Griselda Galaviz Barraza, 25, and Galaviz Barraza's children Joniel, 7; Griselda, 4, and Juana, 2. Three other civilians in the van were wounded, including Galaviz Barraza’s husband.

Mexico's National Defense Department (Sedena, its initials in Spanish) said in a news release that three officers and 16 enlisted personnel were being held at a military prison in the city of Mazatlán pending an investigation by military and civilian authorities into the killings. The 19 soldiers were later indicted and remain in prison. Sinaloa Governor, Jesus Aguilar, lamented the shooting, but said the army will remain in the state "to safeguard the security of its citizens."

Calderón has sent more than 24,000 soldiers and federal police to battle heavily armed drug gangs blamed for more than 1,000 deaths this year, including dozens of victims who have been decapitated and had their heads displayed in public places. Drug gunmen have also hit the military, ambushing and killing five soldiers in a coordinated attack last month in Calderón's home state of Michoacán. In the days following the ambush, soldiers were alleged to have held four teenage girls from a nearby village hostage as they beat and raped them, according to the government-run National Human Rights Commission. The Sedena said it will cooperate in an investigation into that incident. (An article written by John Gibler about that incident is below.)
La Jornada 06/03/07, 06/12/07, 06/13/07
Associated Press: 06/04/07

Villagers allege abuses by Army
The Herald Mexico, El Universal
May 31, 2007
John Gibler

LAS GUACAMAYAS, Mich. - In the dusty village of Las Guacamayas, four hours from Morelia by highway and dirt road, most people share the same last name: Mondragón.
"We are really mostly family here," said Pedro, a subsistence corn and bean farmer in his 30s.

In early May, that name led these rugged country folk into the frontlines of President Calderón's war on drugs when an identification card found on the body of a slain suspected drug trafficker indicated he was a Mondragón.

Since taking office in December, Calderón has mobilized over 20,000 Army troops and federal policemen into action against drug traffickers in seven states. Last week opposition parties, responding to numerous human rights complaints, passed a resolution in the Permanent Congressional Commission calling on the president to order the Army back to its quarters. The next day Calderón vigorously defended his use of the Army and federal troops to attack criminal organizations and drug cartels.

The misfortune of the Mondragones of Las Guacamayas started on May 1, though they did not know it. It was a hot, slow Tuesday, and a gang of presumed drug traffickers was driving down the only paved road in the tiny town of Carácuaro, Michoacán, when a group of soldiers dressed in civilian clothes apparently backed into their truck, igniting a 20-minute gun battle.

Local police stayed indoors thinking the gunfight was between two rival gangs. Five soldiers, including one colonel, died and three more were wounded. Most of the presumed drug traffickers escaped, leaving behind one member dead. Within hours, the Army mobilized over 1,000 soldiers to comb the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán - famed for harboring members of a quasi-independent extension of the Gulf Cartel known as La Familia - looking for the killers.

On May 2, the Army raided houses in Carácuaro, neighboring Nocupétaro, and several surrounding villages. According to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which gathered over 50 complaints of human rights violations during the Army's operation around Carácuaro, soldiers beat, detained and tortured dozens of people and sexually abused three underage girls detained in Nocupétaro. One of the girls, who asked to remain unidentified for security reasons, confirmed the testimony released by the CNDH in an interview a few days after she was released. She said that soldiers brutally beat her and the other girls, and that they sexually molested her during the helicopter ride as they told her, "that this would take the whore out of us, that we were (expletive), that they were the law."

The day after soldiers detained the girls, May 3, they moved on to the nearby village of Las Guacamayas. Soldiers arrived in 17 trucks and three helicopters, all because the last name of many of the villagers here matched the last name of one of the drug traffickers killed in a shootout with the Army in Carácuaro.

Las Guacamayas is a collection of some 20 houses spread on either side of a single dirt road. There are no stores or hospitals. Surrounded by dry earth and cornfields, the residents of Las Guacamayas live in adobe and concrete houses.

María's house has only one wall, a dirt floor, and a corrugated tin roof held up by branches and adobe brick columns. She and her family do have electricity and one small TV set, but they cook in an adobe oven and on a cast iron comal suspended over a wood fire.

On May 3, soldiers with machine guns drawn stormed the village asking everyone for their full names. According to more than 20 people interviewed in Las Guacamayas, all those with the last name Mondragón were immediately beaten down, taken to María's, house by the road, laid face down in the scorching earth, and then one by one beaten again, burned with cigarette lighters and interrogated about the Carácuaro shoot out. "A 2-year-old girl tried to get up and a soldier put a gun to her head," María said.

Over a week later, Pedro Mondragón still had burn marks on his back, a huge scab and swelling on his right knee and throat pain from where a soldier rammed his machine gun barrel down his throat. "I was eating when they arrived and asked me my name. I told them and they said, "Ah, you son of a bitch, you are the very one we're looking for," Pedro said.
One soldier then stuck his machine gun barrel down Pedro's throat, forced him to the ground and beat him in the face and body. He was bleeding badly, he said.

The soldiers took 10 villagers off in helicopters to the military base near Morelia, nine of them had the last name Mondragón. "There in the base they treated us real bad," Pedro said, referring to unrelenting beatings. "They asked, 'Why did you kill them?' We had no idea what they were talking about," he said.

After the interrogation, the soldiers gathered all the detainees in one room and told them that they had found two kilograms of marijuana in their village and wanted the 17 of them to agree on whom to blame for it. But the prisoners said no.

One official from the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) beat many of them to try and force them to comply, released prisoners said.

In the room where the soldiers beat and tortured them there was a poster on the wall saying torture was against the law, one of the other men detained on May 3 said.

Many residents of Las Guacamayas complained of soldiers robbing earrings, necklaces, cellular phones, even an old T-shirt from the United States. According to various testimonies, the soldiers also confiscated two registered .22 caliber rifles and an old pellet gun. One woman complained that a soldier attempted to take her 15-year-old daughter into another room. Several witnesses said the soldier grabbed the girl by one arm and her mother grabbed her by the other. They said the soldier only relented when the girl began crying.

Efforts to contact a spokesman at the Defense Secretariat regarding the allegations made by the residents of Las Guacamayas were unsuccessful. A list of e-mailed questions went unanswered.

Back in the little Michoacán village, those interviewed expressed shock and dismay at the violence the Army used, still shaken by their experience. Despite this, they all supported the government's efforts to locate and punish the real criminals involved in the May 1 shooting.

Effectively, it was made clear that the soldiers somehow believed that all the villagers of Las Guacamayas were involved with the region's brutal drug traffickers. María, gesturing broadly to her dirt floor and tin-roofed home, responded: "Do you think somebody who works in that (drug trafficking) is going to have a house like this?"


Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 654-9587

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