Mexico: rights group pins killings on military

There were at least eight killings last year in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Le贸n “that evidence indicates were the result of unlawful use of lethal force by army and navy officers,” according to a Feb. 3 press release from the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW). A recent fact-finding mission by the group to Nuevo Le贸n also “documented more than a dozen enforced disappearances in which the evidence points to the involvement of the army, navy, and police,” HRW said.

One case the group researched was the shooting of a married couple, Roc铆o Romeli El铆as Garza and Juan Carlos Pe帽a Chavarria, by soldiers on March 3 in An谩huac. The couple was caught in a shootout between the military and armed men; Pe帽a was wounded, but he and El铆as managed to take cover behind an automobile. “When the shooting stopped, El铆as raised her hands and pleaded for help for her husband, yelling that they were civilians and were unarmed. She was shot by a soldier standing approximately 10 feet away. Soldiers approached the bodies and shot them again from point-blank range. Then, the witnesses said, the soldiers moved the bodies and planted arms near both victims.”

Another case was the killing of a Vicente de Le贸n Ram铆rez and Alejandro Gabriel de Le贸n Castellanos, a father and his teenage son, near Apodaca on Sept. 5 when soldiers opened fire on the family car on a highway. Other victims included Jeh煤 Sep煤lveda Garza, who disappeared on Nov. 12 after being arrested in San Pedro Garza Garc铆a and Jos茅 Guadalupe Bernal Orz煤a, who disappeared on May 23 in Monterrey.

“Victims’ families told Human Rights Watch that they had complained to state and federal authorities, and that in most cases investigations had been formally opened,” the report says. “But no one has been held accountable for any of the crimes Human Rights Watch documented in Nuevo Le贸n, according to the families.” (HRW press release, Feb. 3; La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 4) Human rights complaints against the military have risen dramatically since President Felipe Calder贸n Hinojosa deployed soldiers in a “war on drugs” shortly after taking office in December 2006.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 6.

See our last post on Mexico.