More Human Rights Allegations Against Mexican Army

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 11:10 PM EDT

If you're a MoJo reader, you're already aware that the Mexican army is committing gross human-rights abuses under the guise of fighting the cartels. Chuck Bowden's amazing profile of a Mexican journalist forced to flee to the US and seek asylum put it best:

There are two Mexicos.

There is the one reported by the US press, a place where the Mexican president is fighting a valiant war on drugs, aided by the Mexican Army and the Mérida Initiative, the $1.4 billion in aid the United States has committed to the cause. This Mexico has newspapers, courts, laws, and is seen by the United States government as a sister republic.

It does not exist.

There is a second Mexico where the war is for drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share of drug profits, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between the government and the drug world has never existed.

Today, Steve Fainaru and William Booth of the Washington Post have come out with a fine piece rounding up other stories of horrific treatment at the hands of the Mexican Army:

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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...

the National Human Rights Commission, which has been overwhelmed with more than 2,000 complaints about the army -- 140 a month this year. The commission has documented 26 cases of abuse, 17 of which involved torture, including asphyxiation and the application of electric shocks to the genitals of drug suspects.

It gets worse. But the thing I found interesting is that the State Department is advocating releasing the Merida Initiative (also derided as "Plan Mexico") money even if Mexico does not meet the human-rights considerations built into the plan. From the WaPo:

With the Mexican government and governors from U.S. border states clamoring for more assistance -- drug violence killed 769 Mexicans in June, one of the worst months since Calderón took office, in December 2006 -- the State Department is hoping that Congress will release the money despite human rights concerns, according to the U.S. official, who expressed frustration that the Mexican government has not provided more information about the army's progress, including the number of human rights cases that have been prosecuted...

The Mexican government has long opposed the human rights conditions included in the Mérida agreement, and U.S. officials expect a backlash if Congress refuses to release the money. Many Mexican human rights activists do not support the conditions, noting that they were imposed by a U.S government widely accused of torturing prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba...

And there we have yet another sad legacy of our torture policy. Providing excuses to governments (and human rights adocates!) who want to turn a blind eye to their own misdeeds.

Meanwhile, go here to learn more about journalists risking, and often losing, their lives to cover corruption and the cartels in Mexico.