REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- In a comprehensive report released Wednesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch documented 234 cases which the group says represent serious abuse by marines and other security forces in several Mexican states.
The 220-page report, more than a year in the making, paints a tableau of murder, torture and sexual assault of detainees; “forced disappearances” (i.e., kidnappings where the victim never appears again); efforts by armed forces to hide their crimes by tampering with evidence; intimidation of families of victims if they complain or speak out; virtually no serious investigations by civilian or military authorities of the allegations. (See footage below.)
The decision by President Felipe Calderon in December 2006 to deploy troops, who now number more than 50,000, against powerful drug cartels has not succeeded in reducing violence but instead led to a “dramatic increase” in human rights atrocities, Human Rights Watch concluded.
The behavior by marines has “only exacerbated the climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear that exists in many parts of the country,” the report said.
After a 2 1/2-hour meeting with representatives of the human rights group, Calderon' s office issued a statement saying the biggest threat to Mexicans is not the government troops, but the criminals. Troops are being trained in human rights and working closely with state human rights officials, the statement said.
Representatives of Human Rights Watch said Calderon, in the sometimes tense meeting, agreed to examine the cases presented.
“We made him see the statistics,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of Human Rights Watch’s Americas section, said at a news conference Wednesday.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Demonstrators protesting against violence and crime clash with police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on November 1, 2011. Credit: Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
Video: Human Rights Watch Mexico researcher Nik Steinberg and victims' family members describe alleged abuses by Mexican security forces. Credit: Human Rights Watch / YouTube