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New Report Reveals Accounts of Torture, Violence by Mexican Army

New America Media, News Report, Posted: Apr 27, 2009

Lea el informe entero en espaol

The state of human rights violations in Ciudad Jurez is, as one lawyer summed up, de la chingada, an expression used in Mexico to describe a situation in which everything is messed up and there is no hope. Just about every day, as they patrol the streets, soldiers round up entire neighborhoods and invade homes without search warrants, mostly in poor neighborhoods, under the pretext that they are searching for drugs.

While many of the detainees are indeed small-time drug dealers, the process under which they are searched violates statutes of the Mexican Constitution. Ciudad Jurez's mayor recently called the practice a state of exception, in which peoples rights are suspended. For most legal scholars, it represents a flagrant violation of civil rights.

The soldiers have been able to find only small quantities of drugs, but their war on drug cartels has had another, more costly effect on the population and the image of President Calderns crusade: it has turned into a double-edged war whose casualties include citizens rights.

The following are three excerpts from the hundreds of testimonies presented to Chihuahuas Human Rights Commission in Ciudad Jurez. Names and other means of identification have been changed at the request of the victims.

Note to readers: The first testimony contains graphic details about alleged torture that may not be suitable for all readers.

Testimony 1 - 'Alfa'

I was detained by the soldiers early in the morning. They broke down the front door and came into the house. While I was in their custody, they searched all over and took my wifes jewelry and some cash. The soldiers took all the valuables and shared them amongst themselves. I remember one of them had an accent, like from Puebla, and told another soldier to give him a gold chain that belonged to my little daughter. Give me that gold chain. It would fit my little daughter for her birthday, he said. Since they could not find arms or drugs, they took two vehicles, a Jeep Cherokee and a Dodge car.

They blindfolded and shackled me and took me to a place where I could hear the sound of a lot of helicopters and voices of soldiers, like in training. I was always kept blindfolded but since I stayed there for many days, I learned that it was a big place and I could feel a light in the afternoon and I suppose it was the sunlight coming through a window as the sun set. I could feel it.

When they detained me, I calculated that there were another 10 or 20 people in the same place. Without notice, soldiers would come in and start hitting some of the detainees, asking them for concrete information like, Dont be a fool, tell me where the hiding place is for all the drugs for the people from Azucena Street, or Where is El Chivos stash? The soldiers would torture them and the ones that answered them were set free.

They started to hit me and I told them immediately that the only thing I knew was that I could identify people who sold drugs in the neighborhood, that I could even take them there. But the soldier in charge of the interrogation seemed to have more information than I did and he would tell me, Dont make a fool of yourself, we already know that. I need you to tell me where they keep the drugs.

He was very persistent in trying to find out where they kept the drugs. I told them that I didnt know those things and then the soldier started telling me a lot of stuff about my past. And he knew a lot. He knew I had been in jail in El Cereso, [the state jail] for stealing a car and he insisted that I knew who the drug dealers from the Bellavista neighborhood were. And I told him that since I was arrested at El Cereso and got out, I quit hanging around those people because I had a bad time in jail. I told him I didnt want to join the Azteca or the Mexicles gangs. But they kept me down on the floor.

Then the soldier ordered the others to get me ready, and they undressed me completely and started to electric shock me all over my body. They hit me all over, on my stomach and my ass. They even made my anus bleed and kept insisting with their questions about drug hiding places and I kept telling them that I never hang around with other gangs from El Cereso jail. And more people kept coming in and being tortured about the same things. Everyone who gave them an answer was let go, but the ones who didnt stayed.

The next morning, I was kept blindfolded and they stripped off my clothes again and wrapped me in a blanket like a taquito, and they wet the blanket and connected [two] electric wires, one to each testicle. They made sure they were in place and took an instrument that sounded like a small refrigerator or a battery charger and started giving me electric shocks.

They hit me again and asked me the same questions. And I gave them the same answers and they took me back to the room with all the detainees, but this time completely naked. And more people kept on coming in and being subjected to the same type of interrogations. If we dared to speak among ourselves they would hit us. We had to pee or evacuate ourselves right where we were. They used to hose down the place and laugh at us, telling us that we were living in shit. I went through all this for five or six days.

They would also sit me in a chair and cover my head with a plastic bag and close it until I almost suffocated. Then they would remove the bag and let me breath again and begin the questioning. About the fifth day they gave me some clothes, they bound me and put me in a vehicle, like a pick-up or a truck, and drove me along a dirt road. They told me they were going to kill me and I was very scared. They unloaded me and made me kneel on the ground and told me that this was my last chance to talk. They asked me again about the drug dealer in the Bellavista neighborhood. I really didnt have that information and that was the reason I could not give it to them. I prayed to God and waited for the shot. Suddenly I heard the vehicle driving away and I felt alone. I waited for a long time, maybe minutes, maybe half an hour. Finally I decided to remove the blindfold and realized I was alone, in a remote area, and began walking until I found a few houses around the 29 km mark of the [Juarez] Casas Grandes highway. There I could finally get in touch with my family and they came to pick me up. That is all I have to declare.

Testimony 2

It is 1:30 p.m. on August 14, 2008. I am standing on the corner of Casa de Janos and Barranco Azul, right in front of the Rehabilitation Center where according to newspapers reports nine people were killed yesterday.

Ive spoken to the neighbors who are outside the house where the executions occurred requesting information about the events. I found a 25-year-old man who declared the following

I arrived a few minutes after we heard the shooting and I could see a vehicle leaving, while a bunch of people were lying on the floor. Some of them where screaming for help. Another vehicle with soldiers passed by slowly in front of the Rehabilitation Center, but they didnt stop, they just went away slowly following the first vehicle. The soldiers could have faced the killers but they didnt do anything. Then I saw that from inside the house someone was trying to get a young man out. He was bleeding all over. I helped carry the body, he was still breathing, or at least it looked that he was still alive. But when we laid him down on the sidewalk he was already dead.

A lot of people said that the shooters where the soldiers. I believe that the shooters were inside the first vehicle that I saw driving away, but the soldiers truck came after them, like guarding, not pursuing them. A lot of other witnesses said that the soldiers were protecting the killers and were very upset. We realized that inside the house there were still wounded people and some were already dead. Then the police came and I got nervous. Some people said the soldiers were coming back and I decided to leave and go home. Later I went out again but I was really scared.

Testimony received by Gustavo De La Rosa Hickerson, special investigator from the state commission on human rights.

Testimony 3 - Maria Rosa Ontiveros Garay

I declare that on April 18, 2009, the soldiers arrived at my house and identified themselves as members of the Operacin Conjunto (joint operation). They entered my house without a search warrant, and without a court order or any cause, arrested my son Jess Tejada Ontiveros. When I asked where they were taking him, they told me they would keep him at the 20th Precinct on Calle Barranco Azul.

When I went there to find his whereabouts, a guard told me I could not enter and referred me to the Federal Attorney Generals office. I went to the Attorney Generals Office and was told that my son wasnt there. It took me three days to find out where my son was, and when I found him he had signs of having been tortured. He had serious bruises on his head and was unable to walk normally.

Ontiveros also declared that the soldiers ransacked the house, broke the furniture, took food from the kitchen and emptied all the drawers in the bedroom.

Jess Tejada Ontiveros lawyer said that the soldiers are charging his client with the possession of 10 bags of cocaine. His client denies the charges but if found guilty he could be sentenced to 10 years of prison.

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