AMLO deploys National Guard amidst controversy

07/24/19 (written by kheinle) — The first contingent of Mexico’s National Guard (Guardia Nacional) was officially deployed to the streets in late June. Created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police, the National Guard will serve as a means to combat the country’s ongoing challenges with organized crime and violence. The deployment came seven months after President Andrés López Manuel Obrador took office in December 2018 and three months after Mexico’s Congress approved the force in March 2019. The National Guard is projected to grow to be 140,000 members.

Deployment of the National Guard

AMLO rides in ceremony for National Guard inauguration

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the inauguration of the National Guard. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Six thousand National Guard agents were initially sent to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. They are there to assist with the increasing flow of migrants crossing into Mexico from Central America. As The Associated Press noted, the deployment came “as Mexico [put] into effect a deal on irregular immigration reached with Washington to head off stiff tariffs that President Donald Trump threatened to slap on all imports from Mexico.”

President López Obrador’s decision to strengthen the country’s southern border in response to the escalating tension with the United States led to a drop in his approval rating. In May, President López Obrador had a 66.0% approval rating, which fell to 60.8% after his agreement made with President Trump on June 7, according to polling firm Mitkofsky. Overall, President López Obrador has fared poorly with approval ratings specific to public security. In a recent survey, only 26% of respondents approved of the government’s handling of public security, while 55% viewed it poorly. Even the president commented that he “had so far failed to improve security,” writes Reuters. Still, President López Obrador has received above average approval ratings during his time in office.

The heated rhetoric between the United States and Mexico regarding tariffs and immigration has since quieted for the time being. Yet the debate over Mexico’s National Guard has not. Critics continue to express concern over the agency’s formation, its effect on the Police, and its respect of human rights.

Criticism of the National Guard

National Guard on patrol

Members of the military display National Guard insignia during patrol in El Manguito, Mexico. Photo: Oliver de Ros, Associated Press.

As Justice in Mexico wrote in December 2018, criticism of the force emanates at the local, national, and international levels. Congresswoman Lucia Rojas, for example, argued that the National Guard would only deepen the military-focused strategy already in Mexico. “…[I]t’s become clear in the last 12 years,” she said, “that there’s absolutely no evidence that having the army on the streets helps to reduce the violence.”

Similarly, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore acknowledged that, at least pertaining to the flow of migrants to Mexico’s southern border, the National Guard is not the cure. “Unless the root causes of these migration flows are addressed, the situation is unlikely to change,” said Fore. That parallels ongoing criticism of the government’s willingness to involve the military in domestic affairs, a practice that is regularly discouraged. The blurring of the line between roles and responsibilities among the military, police, and now the National Guard will be worth monitoring.

Police Protests

Mexico’s Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) has been in the center of the debate over the National Guard, as the former will be fully integrated into the latter over the next 18 months. The Police have been very critical of the National Guard’s formation and the effect it will have on the police agents themselves. Their concerns include officers’ pay and benefits if they transfer, job stability and security, and the effect of deployment on their families back home, reports The New York Times. One Federal Police officer, Engelbert Ruiz, commented that “What is really happening is that they are simply changing our uniforms [with] no explanations, clarity, no rights or guarantees.”

Federal Police gather in protest

Members of Mexico’s Federal Police (Policia Federal, PF). Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Tensions erupted in early July when Federal Police in Mexico City took to the streets. Protests included press conferences, blockades on one of the main highways in Mexico City, and several hundred officers barricading themselves in the police command center. They also signed a petition “in favor of legality and justice” that laid out the Federal Police’s demands for just pay and treatment as they integrate into the National Guard. In addition, more than 4,000 agents signed on to an amparo, or court injunction, demanding the protections of their rights throughout this process.

President López Obrador has been critical of the police force’s discipline and entanglement with corruption. He pointed to the protests as a sign that they lack discipline. “We have always said that this police force has been going bad, and what happened yesterday,” he said, referencing the protests, “is evidence of that.” Still, the López Obrador administration, including Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo Montaño, continue to stress that police officers “joining the National Guard will be able to retain their rank, bonuses and benefits.” Durazo has been working with the police to address and satisfy their demands, on which he reported progress and agreements as of July 9, according to El Economista.

Human Rights Violations

Military involvement in domestic affairs raises concern, particularly with regards to the potential increase in human rights violations perpetrated by members of the military against civilians. As it was, just days after the National Guard took to the streets in Mexico, three agents were arrested for allegedly kidnapping a 14-year-old in the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex). They are thought to be a part of a larger kidnapping gang that authorities in Edomex and Guerrero were tracking.

The likelihood of such incidences occurring pushed Congress to establish human rights protocols and protections as they debated the force’s approval earlier this year. This included constitutional changes that “would mean that national guard members receive human rights training, are tried by civil courts and will not be able to move detainees to military institutions,” writes Reuters. If agents want to join the National Guard, they must now participate in a seven week training. This is a step in the right direction to curtail human rights violations. However, the Mexican Government ought to continue prioritizing human rights protections amidst the National Guard’s rollout.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

“Mexican president-elect’s party presents national guard plan.” Reuters. November 20, 2018.

“Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard.” Justice in Mexico. December 24, 2018.

Verza, María. “Mexico says National Guard deployment is complete.” The Associated Press. June 21, 2019.

García, Jacobo. “López Obrador pone en marcha la polémica Guardia Nacional para frenar la violencia del crimen organizado.” El País. July 1, 2019.

“One year from election, Mexicans give government poor marks on key issues: poll.” Reuters. July 1, 2019.

“Mexican police protest against joining new national guard.” Reuters. July 3, 2019.

Villegas, Paulina and Elisabeth Malkin. “Mexico’s Federal Police Rebel Against New Security Plan.” The New York Times. July 4, 2019.

“Cae banda de secuestradores que pertenecían a la Guardia Nacional.” Forbes. July 16, 2019.

Badillo, Diego. “Guardia Nacional desata conflicto dentro de la Policía Federal.” El Economista. July 20, 2019.

Supreme Court determines Law on Internal Security unconstitutional

Supreme Court building

Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Source: Wikipedia.

12/30/18 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN) made a significant decision in November regarding the proposed Law on Internal Security (Ley de Seguridad Interior). The law was meant to address Mexico’s notoriously high levels of crime and violence. It sought to expand safety on the domestic front, minimize threats towards internal security, and increase the role of the military in domestic affairs. The latter includes the military’s capacity to gather intelligence and evidence in proposed crimes.

On November 15, 2018, however, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, arguing that it went against both the Mexican Constitution and international treaties to which Mexico is a signatory. The Court also said that Mexico’s Congress, which had approved the law, should not legislate on matters of internal security. When the draft law was published in December 2017, Congress was controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), the party of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). On December 1, 2018, the new government took over under now-President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA) took office.

Critics of the Law on Internal Security

Despite its Congressional support, the law received pushback from civilian institutions and human rights activists. The Washington Office on Latin America shared its concern in a communication just weeks before the Supreme Court’s decision. WOLA noted the control it would have given the military in overseeing civilian authorities in domestic affairs, as well as its expanded role in investigations. “Paired with the absence of effective controls and accountability mechanisms to oversee those actions, this will limit the power of authorities within the civilian justice system, resulting in impunity,” WOLA stated. The law also drew ire from the public. A Change.org petition was submitted a month after the draft law was initially published with over 467,000 signatures urging the Mexican government to reject the law. WOLA summarized that the five main reasons for the public’s rebuke included:

  1. “Lack of accountability mechanisms and civilian oversight;
  2. Expanding the military’s jurisdiction over civilians;
  3. Insufficient regulation of the military’s use of force;
  4. Lack of transparency in how the Internal Security Law will be implemented; [and]
  5. The Internal Security Law disincentives police reform.”

The high court’s decision is one that Esmeralda Arosema de Troitiño, the spokesperson for Mexico’s Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH), argued set a precedent for President López Obrador’s incoming government. The Court’s decision “constitutes an indispensable judicial precedent as the base for the new government to present a concrete plan to gradually draw down military in public security matters…,” she said.

The developments with the Law on Internal Security paralleled President López Obrador’s ongoing push for a National Guard, which has also raised concerns about human rights and public safety.

Sources:

Cámara de Deputados del H. Congreso de la Unión. “Ley de Seguridad Interior.” Diario Oficial de la Federación. December 21, 2017. PDF.

Suarez-Enriquez, Ximena and Maureen Meyer. “Multiple Sectors Push Back Against the Implementation of Mexico’s New Internal Security Law.” WOLA. January 25, 2018.

Joint Statement. “International Observatory on Mexico: The Decision of Mexico’s Supreme Court on the Internal Security Law Will Set a Fundamental Precedent on Militarization in the Country and in the Region.” Washington Office on Latin America. November 2, 2018. 

Ferri, Pablo. “La justicia mexicana tumba la ley del gobierno saliente que perpetúa el papel policial del Ejército.” El País. November 16, 2018.

Roldán, Mariluz. “CIDH celebra invalidación de Ley de Seguridad Interior.” El Universal. November 26, 2018.

“Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard.” Justice in Mexico. December 24, 2018.

Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard

infographic, structure / outline of National Guard

Representative Mario Delgado posted this infographic about the National Guard following the sub-committee’s approval. Source: Mario Delgado, Twitter.

12/24/18 (written by kheinle) — The plan to create a National Guard (Guardia Nacional) in Mexico advanced through the first round of congressional approval. On December 20, 2018, the Chamber of Deputies’ (la Cámara de Diputados) Committee on Constitutional Affairs (la Comisión de Puntos Constitucionales) approved the bill 18 votes in favor to 6 against. If full Congress approves, the National Guard would be a 50,000-person armed force created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) proposed the force to address the seriously high levels of crime and violence in Mexico.

The bill would require amending 13 articles of the Mexican Constitution, some of which seek to mitigate concerns of human rights and civilian oversight. As Reuters reported, the constitutional changes “would mean that national guard members receive human rights training, are tried by civil courts and will not be able to move detainees to military institutions.” Initially, the National Guard was also going to be overseen by the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA). The bill approved in the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee, however, moved much of this control to the Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC). As the Latin America News Dispatch summarized, “While the unit would still be trained militarily, as was originally proposed, jurisdiction would pass to civilian authorities after five years, according to Representative Mario Delgado.” It continued, “The Senate will also be given the power to dissolve the new guard.”

Critics Speak Up

Despite these changes, critics have widely condemned the proposal. Causa en Común, a collective of more than 500 civil society organizations and businesses, among others, delivered a petition to Congress in November 2018 urging their elected officials to reject AMLO’s proposition. For her part, the director of the organization México Evalúa, Edna Jaime, criticized the National Guard in a November 2018 article titled, “No es más de lo mismo, es algo peor” (“It’s not more of the same; it’s worse”). Mexico’s crime and violence, she wrote, is associated with the dysfunctional State, the void of effective governing mechanisms, and a weak institution. The solution “is improving the capacity of the State” and focusing resources at the local levels, Jaime argued. “World peace is sustainable in local-level processes that operate with good mechanisms of global governance.”

DF Mayor speaking at event

Mexico City Mayor Sheinbaum turned down the idea of the National Guard in Mexico City. Source: Vanguardia.

Elected officials also voiced their concern. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum publicly announced that the National Guard would not be needed in the capital. The police are capable of delivering, she said, adding that the federal and local police forces would work closely together. Congresswoman Lucia Rojas also argued that the National Guard would only deepen the military-focused strategy already in Mexico. “And it’s become clear in the last 12 years,” she said, “that there’s absolutely no evidence that having the army on the streets helps to reduce the violence.” The military’s presence in Mexico’s domestic affairs has also led to an increase in the number of human rights violations perpetrated by members of the military against civilians, an issue that Justice in Mexico explored in a 2012 special report.

At the international level, organizations like the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern, too. Jan Jarab of the UN’s Office on Human Rights in Mexico sent a letter to Congress following the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee vote. Approval of the bill, he wrote, “would establish at the constitutional level this paradigm of military involvement in security issues, the same one that has contributed to the deterioration of human rights in Mexico.” Jarab continued, “[It] would threaten the possibility of having a capable civil body in the future that could exercise public security in strict accordance with international human rights standards.”

AMLO is not the first Mexican president to pursue the idea of a National Guard. His predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), initially called for a 40,000-person force that was eventually scaled down to 5,000. AMLO’s current bill will soon be presented to the full Chamber of Deputies for consideration.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

June S. Beittel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,” Congressional Research Service, July 3, 2018.

“Mexican president-elect’s party presents national guard plan.” Reuters. November 20, 2018.

Roldán, Maríhiz. “Más de 500 organizaciones manifestan su rechazo a la Guardia Nacional.” El Universal. November 20, 2018.

Angel, Arturo. “Los cambios clave en la propuesta de Guardia Nacional que fue aprobado en comisiones.” Animal Político. December 20, 2018.

Jiménez, Horacio and Alejandra Canchola. “Guardia Nacional arrancaría con mando militar y Senado la podría disolver: Delgado.” El Universal. December 20, 2018.

“Asylum seekers will be sent back to wait in Mexico.” Latin America News Dispatch. December 21, 2018.

“Diputados de México aprueban en comisiones la nueva Guardia Nacional.” RT. December 21, 2018.

Magallán, Antonio. “Sheimbaum se revela contra la Guardia Nacional de AMLO; asegura bastará con la Policía Federal y municipal.” Vanguardia. December 21, 2018.

Sánchez, Citlal Giles. “Preocupa a represenante de la ONU en México creación de la Guardia Nacional.” La Jornada Guerrero. December 22, 2018.

Implications of Lopez Obrador’s Security Agenda

06/30/2018 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)-  On July 1, 2018, in one of the most unprecedented elections of its history, Mexico elected a new President. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known by his initials, AMLO, will be Mexico’s next President. Previously having run for president in 2006 and 2012, his victory, though groundbreaking, is not surprising. AMLO consistently led election polls in comparison to the other major party candidates, Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade.

It goes without saying that 2018 will stand out in Mexico’s election history. For the first time ever, independent candidates were able to seek presidential nomination. In addition, aside from electing a new party candidate, Mexican citizens voted for over 18,000 elected positions. With 89 million eligible voters, the highest in Mexican history, election outcomes have the potential to markedly change Mexico’s political landscape. On that note, Lopez Obrador’s victory may significant influence on Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor, the United States. Even more so, however, Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda could have unique implications on Mexico’s current security.

Lopez Obrador’s Background

Born in Mexico’s state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador went on to study political science and public administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Autónoma de México, UNAM), Mexico’s largest public university. Lopez Obrador’s political experience is rooted in Mexico’s long standing political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). In 1976, he actively supported and campaigned on behalf of PRI Senate Candidate, Carlos Pellicer.

Lopez Obrador left the party in 1988 to join the National Democratic Front (Frente Democrático Nacional, FDN), a dissident left-wing coalition assembled to challenge the hegemonic rule of the PRI. That same year, Lopez Obrador ran as opposition for Tabasco’s governorship. Although he lost, he ultimately became the president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a center-left party founded from the remnants of the FDN. Lopez Obrador served as PRD president from 1996 to 1999.

Throughout his tenure, Lopez Obrador continued to build his political stature, including campaigning for indigenous rights, and organizing protests against Mexico’s behemoth energy company, Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX), and PRI corruption. In 2000, he was elected as Mexico City’s mayor. His time in office was considered to be generally successful as his administration significantly improved Mexico City’s infrastructure, including remodeling the historic metropolitan center, expanding highways and improving public transportation with the introduction of Metrobus, a public transit system.

Lopez Obrador resigned from his mayoral position in order to seek presidential nomination for the PRD for the 2006 Presidential elections. Although he led the majority of the election polls, National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderon, edged ahead by less than one percent.  Lopez Obrador protested the election results, demanding a recount and even held a public “inauguration” declaring himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Lopez Obrador ran again for president in 2012, once again falling short and alleging election

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

fraud.

Ultimately, Lopez Obrador stepped away from the PRD and founded his own political party in 2014, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional, MORENA).  In coalition with a left-wing Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, PT), and right-wing Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social, PES), Lopez Obrador once again sought presidential candidacy in the 2018 elections.

A Revised Security Agenda  

Under the slogan, “Together we will make history (Juntos Haremos Historia),” Lopez Obrador successfully led a center-left campaign that captured over 50% of the vote with one of the highest election margins in Mexican political history. His firebrand promises to bring change to Mexico, resonated with many Mexican voters. Lopez Obrador emphasized his determination to uproot corruption across Mexico and address rampant issues of poverty and violence.

In particular, his rule of law and security-specific proposals include: creating a National School of Public Security to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on corruption among law enforcement, establish state-level entities and obligatory trainings to monitor and increase the professionalization of law enforcement officials across Mexico, target the socio-economic roots of organized crime to reduce the incentive of organized crime, reform the 19th Constitutional Article to allow for preemptive imprisonment for corruption crimes, and analyze the efficiency of the Judiciary Council and revise the structure of the federal judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, accordingly.

One of Lopez Obrador’s most controversial security proposals includes amnesty legislation for the purpose of reducing cyclical patterns of socio-economic insecurity in Mexico. Following his election, Lopez Obrador held his first security cabinet meeting to further develop the parameters of this proposed legislation. According to Alfonso Durazo- Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Public Security, a newly reinstated position of state- amnesty would be key to the new administration’s security agenda.

Notwithstanding that amnesty is a politically ionized concept, particularly in Mexico’s current state of insecurity, some see it as a step towards the de-escalation of Mexico’s violence. Raúl Zepeda Gil, a security expert for the Institute Belisario Domínguez of the Senate of the Republic (Instituto Belisario Domínguez del Senado de la República), identifies three ways in which amnesty could introduce effective mechanisms for reducing violence, including: the perspective of post-conflict pacification, alternative sentencing for minor/non-violent acts, and revised drug regulations. Although, he concedes that implementing amnesty comes with another set of issues, such as sustainability and corruption, Zepeda highlights the benefits of amnesty negotiations and transitional justice strategies applied in Colombia, a country which experienced violence and organized crime similar to Mexico. Ultimately, he argues that amnesty legislation for Mexico may in fact be an effective formula to redressing systemic patterns of violence and socio-economic instability.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero. (Marco Ugarte, Associated Press).

These aforementioned and often controversial mechanisms are already under-consideration and open to public debate, according to Olga Sánchez Cordero, Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Government. In a recent Seminar on Violence and Peace: Forget, Truth, or Justice? (Seminario sobre Violencia y Paz: ¿Olvido, verdad o Justicia?), she affirmed that the new administration will be open to transitional justice mechanisms in their bid to uphold a human rights-focused agenda. In the words of Sanchez Cordero, Mexico needs new institutions and new systems to amend its reality, including amnesty negotiations, but also alternative and reduced sentencings, the decriminalization of certain drugs, reparation polies, and socio-economic policies targeting the recovery of public spaces.

Lopez Obrador’s intended approach has already elicited a response from the White House, in particular the topic of narcotic policies. In answer to the possibility that Mexico may legalize drugs, Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, asserted that the United States no way supports the legalization of drugs. However, Sanchez Cordero’s proposals have thus far only suggested the decriminalization of marijuana and opium.

Although Lopez Obrador is adamant in his promise to reinvent the security strategies used in Mexico, critics are skeptical, pointing out that his proposed security policies are relatively experimental in Mexico. Regardless, on election day, Mexican voters were willing to take a leap of faith. In the words of Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica, recent populist elections reflect a regional demand for change. “The results are not endorsements of ideologies, but rather demands for change, a fatigue felt by people waiting for answers that simply have not arrived (New York Times).”

Upon accepting his appointment as President elect, Lopez Obrador stated that under his leadership he will “establish an authentic democracy” in Mexico. Political promises, apprehensive criticisms and hopeful constituents aside, only time will reveal the attainability of Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

“Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. July 2, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andres-Manuel-Lopez-Obrador

Palacios, Surya. “Perfil: Quien es Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)? Alto Nivel. July 2, 2018. https://www.altonivel.com.mx/elecciones-2018/amlo/perfil-amlo-lopez-obrador/

Lafuente, Javier. “La Victoria de López Obrador lleva al poder a la izquierda en México.” El Pais. July 2, 2018. https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/07/02/mexico/1530496335_470433.html

Najar, Alberto. “5 razones que hacen históricas las elecciones presidenciales en México.” BBC Mundo. July 1, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-43578377

Ahmed, Azam and Paulina Villegas. “Lopez Obrador, an Atypical Leftist, Wins Mexico Presidency in Landslide.” The New York Times. July 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/world/americas/mexico-election-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador.html

“Esto fue lo que dijo López Obrador tras su Victoria electoral (discursos completos).” Animal Politico. July 2, 2018. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2018/07/discursos-lopez-obrador/

Zepeda Gil, Raúl. “Pacificación a la mexicana: apuntes sobre la propuesta de amnistía de López Obrador.” Nexos. July 9, 2018. https://seguridad.nexos.com.mx/?p=886

Open Society Justice Initiative report details crimes against humanity in Mexico

cover report

Source: Open Society Justice Initiative.

10/03/16 (written by kheinle) — A report released by the Open Society Justice Initiative in June 2016 provides a scathing overview of crimes against humanity being committed in Mexico. The report, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico, finds that not only have crimes against humanity occurred, but also that those responsible, namely the Mexican government and the Zetas criminal organization, have not been held accountable. This argument is largely built on the legal standards outlined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Mexico has been privy to since 2005. As Robert Varenik, Acting Executive Director of Open Society Justice Initiative, synthesized in a communication,

“Based on three years of research and over 100 interviews, the [Undeniable Atrocities] report examines the devastating toll of drug-related violence in Mexico and finds a reasonable basis to believe that federal security forces and members of criminal cartels have, since 2006, perpetrated killings, enforced disappearances, and torture on a widespread and systematic scale such that they constitute crimes against humanity.”

To arrive at the conclusion, the report begins with homicides. Only 10% of homicide cases that occurred between 2007 and 2012 resulted in convictions, the report reads, and only 16% of homicide investigations opened by federal prosecutors from 2009 through July 2015 led to indictments. The data proves worse for disappearances, whether criminal or enforced (perpetrated by state actors/law enforcement). As of February 2015, only 13 convictions resulted from 313 federal investigations into enforced disappearances, and not until August 2015 was a single soldier ever convicted for his or her involvement in cases of disappearances despite evidence proving otherwise. Meanwhile, 12 indictments and eight judgments were issued in 1,884 federal investigations into torture between 2006 and 2014, and cases of torture resulted in only six convictions between 2007 and April 2015.

Taking these findings into consideration vis-à-vis Mexico’s obligation to the standards set forth in the Rome Statute, the “analysis finds that the situation in Mexico meets the legal definition of crimes against humanity.” The report also considers Mexico’s responsibility as a state to protect its people, arguing that the government’s ability to do so has been undermined by its own legitimate strategy launched in 2007 by then President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) against organized crime. Undeniable Atrocities writes that the strategy “deployed the military and federal police [to the streets] to use overwhelming extrajudicial force against civilian populations perceived to be associated with criminal cartels, without adequate regulations on the use of force, and with almost no accountability for any of the abuses that followed.” Not only has this strategy led to an increase in human rights violations without proper oversight of the deployed military and police, but it also has hindered the Mexican government’s ability to protect its people. This can be considered ironic given the strategy’s ultimate goal was to increase the country’s safety and security by eliminating organized crime.

The government’s role in human rights violations discussed in Undeniable Atrocities (homicide, enforced disappearance, and torture) has long been a focus of national and international concern. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) is a reputable, independent source that documents these violations by state actors, as found in their public Recommendations (Recomendaciones) that detail credible accusations of violations and recommendations for how to mitigate and rectify the situation.

enforced disappearances and indictments

Source: “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiative.

In 2016 alone, five such CNDH recommendations have been issued to the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and an additional five to the Secretary of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina). The rate of recommendations issued against SEDENA (five recommendations over nine months for a .56 rate of recommendations/month) is significantly less than what Justice in Mexico documented in its 2012 report, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Data used in that report shows that over a 62-month span under President Calderón dating May 2007 through July 2012, 101 recommendations were issued against SEDENA at a rate of 1.62 per month, thus nearly tripling SEDENA’s current rate. On the other hand, SEMAR’s rate of recommendations in 2016 (.56) is significantly higher than its rate under Calderón, when only 17 recommendations were issued during the same 62-month span (.27 recommendations/month).

Both military entities were recently issued recommendations from CNDH documenting human rights abuses, thus falling in line with the Undeniable Atrocities report. In August 2016, for example, CNDH’s “Recomendación No. 42/2016” detailed SEDENA’s role in a case in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero in 2012 that involved illegal search, arbitrary detention, and arbitrary execution of two minors and four adults. Two weeks later, CNDH issued a recommendation against SEMAR (Recomendación No. 43/2016) about a 2013 case in San Luis Potosí that involved violations of seven victims’ rights to liberty, personal security, personal integrity, and access to justice, as well as the torture of one of the victims.

The role of authorities in violating human rights and committing crimes against humanity, as Undeniable Atrocities argues, thus continues to be a pressing and present issue in Mexico. According to Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister (2000-2003), the Open Society Justice Initiative’s report is “the most crushing critique to date of the war against drugs waged by [Presidents] Calderón and Peña Nieto since the end of 2007.” Respected and well-known Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui also weighed in after reading the report, declaring that a “big debate” should be initiated in Mexico to address the crimes against humanity and hold those responsible accountable. The Undeniable Atrocities report builds on that comment with its recommendation. “The government must act without delay,” it reads, “to acknowledge the gravity of the situation: it must initiate urgent, extraordinary measures, including the invitation of international assistance to ensure independent, genuine investigations and prosecutions.” It will be interesting to see how the Peña Nieto administration addresses such calls for action during its final two years in office.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

Full Report. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

Press Release. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

“Undeniable Atrocities: Reactions.” Open Society Foundations. June 2016.

Recomendación No. 42/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. August 31, 2016.

Recomendación No. 43/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. September 14, 2016.

Email communication. Varenik, Robert O. via Jillian Winkler. Open Society Justice Initiatives and Open Society Foundations. September 21, 2016.

“La CNDH emite recomendación al Ejército por el asesinato de 6 personas, entre ellas 2 menores, ocurrido en Guerrero.” Sin Embargo. September 27, 2016.

Web. “Recomendaciones.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Last accessed October 1, 2016.