By Esmeralda Lopez, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Mexico My desire to end torture in Mexico runs deep. Years ago it became too dangerous for me to visit my family in Mexico because they are only hours from Ciudad Juarez, a hot spot of violence. Some officers point to incidents of violence and the high crime rate as justification for use of torture. But I know torture is not the solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
A historic Mexican Supreme Court decision to ensure soldiers accused of human rights abuses against civilians be tried in civilian – not military – courts may bring Mexico closer to respecting human rights and fulfilling their Merida Initiative obligations.
In 2008, the Merida Initiative security assistance package was signed by then-US President George W. Bush. This unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico aims to fight organized crime and associated violence while respecting human rights.
Wounded and dazed, Luis Fredy Lala Pomavilla stumbled to a near by highway checkpoint in Tamaulipas, Mexico where he alerted the authorities. Luis led Marines to a ranch. What they found was horrific. They found a ranch filled with the bodies of 72 massacred Central and South American migrants.
You may have heard about this horror earlier this week, which may be the biggest massacre so far in Mexico’s bloody drug war. Apparently, members of the Zeta criminal organization asked the migrants for money and those who could not pay were murdered. This is one of the usual extortionary schemes criminal gangs perpetrate against migrants as they pass throug Mexico to the United States. Other human rights abuses that migrants face are kidnapping, rape, and forced prostitution, as the National Commission on Human Rights of Mexico reported 9,758 kidnapped migrants between September 2008 and February 2009.
The plight of migrants and their journey through Mexico is so treacherous that Amnesty International released a report documenting their abuses called: Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico.
We are gravely concerned about the massacre of these 72 migrants and the Mexican government must act now to ensure that the human rights of migrants are protected, especially from extorsion, kidnapping, sexual abuse, forced prostitution, and torture.
The Restore Fairness Campaign recently posted a video describing the horrific plight of Esmeralda.
Esmeralda, a transgender asylum seeker from Mexico who came to the United States seeking protection and liberty found herself in immigration detention, in conditions as terrifying as those she was attempting to flee. Upon arrival at the US border, Esmeralda applied for asylum on the basis of persecution because of her identity as a transgendered person. Like all asylum seekers seeking protection at US borders, Esmeralda was put into immigration detention.
There was no reason to think she was a security threat. There was no reason to think she was a flight risk. She did not try to escape. She did not cause trouble in the detention center.
But according to her testimony:
She was segregated.
She was discriminated against.
She was threatened.
She was sexually abused and forced to perform oral sex on a prison guard. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
…and they’re still waiting. Yesterday and today mark the third anniversary of the police operations in San Salvador Atenco that resulted in the arbitrary arrests of more than 45 women. At least 25 of those women filed complaints of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the police who arrested them. However, none of those responsible for the events at Atenco have been brought to justice. The women of Atenco continue to wait for justice.
This past week, the swine flu outbreak has caused terrible problems for Mexico. Unfortunately, on the third anniversary of those events at Atenco, several campaign actions that were planned now have to be postponed. Rallies had to be cancelled, speakers cannot fly into Mexico, and offices are closed throughout the country. As such, several of our actions and campaign ideas have had to be set aside for the time being as Mexicans struggle to get through this sudden outbreak.
As you can imagine, the women of Atenco are feeling pretty discouraged that they will not be able to draw attention to their case this week as they had hoped. They continue to wait for impunity to end and for justice to be served. Support them through our Mariposas Initiative or by signing our online petition to tell President Calderon that they are not alone – the world is waiting for justice for these women. Even though swine flu is his main concern right now, he needs to remember the Women of Atenco and he needs to see how many people are watching and waiting.
Recently, lawmakers in Mexico have proposed reinstating the death penalty to deal with rising kidnapping and murder rates. According to the LA Times, lawmakers will hear arguments regarding this amendment to the constitution next week. Talk of executing criminals in Mexico has become more frequent by some politicians as the number of unsolved kidnappings, many resulting in murder, soars. One such lawmaker said, “In Coahuila the death penalty is not the issue, it’s how we should kill (the criminals); by firing squad, slashing their throats, hanging or something lighter, like lethal injection.”
But let’s step back for a minute. The reality of the situation in parts of Mexico is that the vast majority of these crimes, many the consequence of a violent drug war, go unsolved and some believe that corrupt police are benefitting by bribing drug cartels in exchange for insider information. And protecting innocent victims becomes impossible when victims’ families refuse to report the crime to a police force they feel can’t be trusted.
Because the current administration under President Calderon is unlikely to pass any amendment to legalize state-sanctioned executions, the lawmakers pushing for such a measure need to address the real problems in the region. Before they jump to threatening “throat slashing”, legislators need to target the causes of the organized crime wave and the police force, charged with protecting its citizens, needs to regain credibility. How can the citizens of Mexico trust authorities to carry out justice on death row when they can’t trust them to carry out justice on their streets?