On June 30 El Heraldo de León, a newspaper based in León in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, released two graphic videotapes showing police agents from León’s Special Tactical Group (GET) torturing other agents during training sessions. The victims, who had reportedly volunteered, were subjected to a practice known as the tehuacanazo, in which mineral water is forced up the nose, and were threatened with the pocito, in which the subject’s head is submerged in excrement. In one scene, a trainee collapses and throws up; another agent then pushes him into his own vomit.
León police chief Carlos Tornero Salinas said the tapes were made in April and that the training went on for 160 hours over the course of 12 days. The sessions were conducted by an unidentified person of English nationality, according to Mayor Vicente Guerrero Reynoso, a member of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) of Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa.
León public safety secretary Alvar Cabeza de Vaca Apendinni acknowledged on June 30 that GET agents had received the training “because we need to have a special group to respond to certain conditions” due to the spread of organized crime in the city and the state. “It’s extreme training for extreme conditions,” he said. The course was to prepare the agents to deal with “high-stress” situations, police chief Tornero explained on July 1. “This doesn’t imply…that the training was for the application of methods of torture.” He said the tortures were just simulations, and complained that by airing the videos journalists were trying “to discredit the institution [the police department], one way or another.”
“Please, be more ethical, be more responsible,” Mayor Guerrero Reynoso told reporters. “You’re doing a lot of damage to society.” (La Jornada, July 1, 2)
On June 30—the day of the Guanajuato torture revelations—in Washington DC, US president George W. Bush signed a supplemental appropriations bill into law providing $162 billion for the US occupation of Iraq and $465 million for the Merida Initiative. This initiative, which critics call “Plan Mexico,” allocates $400 million to Mexico and $65 million to Central American countries to fight drug trafficking. The law provides for 15% of Mexico’s allotment to be held up until the US secretary of state certifies that the Mexican government is showing improvements in various areas, including respect for human rights by the military and police, and the prohibition of torture. (LJ, July 1 from correspondent)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 6