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Mexico's Forgotten Disappeared: The Victims of the Border Narco Bloodbath (2)

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    FNS: Mexico s Forgotten Disappeared: The Victims of the Border Narco Bloodbath (Part II) Date: 3/4/2004 9:25:55 AM Pacific Standard Time From: gbloom@nmsu.edu
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      FNS: Mexico's Forgotten Disappeared: The Victims of the Border Narco
      Bloodbath (Part II)
      Date: 3/4/2004 9:25:55 AM Pacific Standard Time
      From: gbloom@...

      Mexico's Forgotten Disappeared: The Victims of the Border Narco Bloodbath
      (Part II)
      by Mark Getty

      Upholding the Law of the Jungle and Social Disorder: Police, Drug
      Traffickers and Dirty Warriors

      In the Mexican borderlands, hardly a week goes by without news of current or
      former policemen being linked to organized criminal activity. The recent
      exposure of members of the Chihuahua State Judicial Police (PJE) as the
      probable murderers of 12 men whose bodies were recovered from a
      "narco-grave" in Cd. Juárez is but the latest case in which lines are
      increasingly blurred between law enforcement authorities and gangsters.

      In Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, for instance, a scandal erupted early this
      year when several Tamaulipas state policemen were accused of protecting
      kidnapping rings. One of the mentioned officers, Tamaulipas State
      Ministerial Police commander, Felipe Ramírez, just happened to be the first
      lead investigator in the still-unsolved rape-murder of 16-year-old computer
      school student Olga Lidia Osorio, in Nuevo Laredo in January 2003, a case
      that caught widespread attention in the border city due to its similarity
      with the Cd. Juárez women's killings.

      What is striking about border violence is the large number of local, state
      and federal police who are both victimizers and victims. Flaunted years ago
      by authorities for its supposed efficiency, the Special Anti-Kidnapping
      Group of the Chihuahua State Judicial Police (GEA), is a case in point. Of
      eight original members of the GEA, six have been reported murdered, one is
      disappeared and one still alive.

      Well-known, former GEA head Francisco Minjarez was gunned down on September
      11, 2003 in Chihuahua City. He was also involved in the early stages of the
      PJE's much-questioned investigations of the sex-related serial slayings of
      young women in Cd. Juárez.

      Members of the El Paso-Juárez-based International Association of Relatives
      and Friends of Disappeared Persons (AFAPD), which represents family members

      of mainly disappeared men widely believed to have been victims of
      narco-violence, contend that Minjarez covered-up leads in their cases,
      staged rescues in others and spread misinformation about victims like New
      Mexico resident Ricardo Pfeiffer who disappeared in Cd. Juárez.

      "(The) media has given him a lot of credit for being the chief of the
      anti-kidnapping squad, but the truth is that he stalled a lot of these
      cases," charges the AFAPD's Jaime Hervella. "He knew exactly who was doing
      what to whom."

      Alma Díaz, spokeswoman for the Esperanza Association in Baja California, a
      non-governmental group which represents families of missing loved ones in
      California, Baja California and Sinaloa, charges that numerous abductions in
      her region were staged by armed men from the now-defunct Federal Judicial
      Police and the State Ministerial Police of Baja California Norte. Díaz
      blames a former federal police officer, Armando "El Loco" Martinez Duarte,
      currently incarcerated on drug charges at a high-security prison outside
      Mexico City, for being behind the disappearance of her son."

      Perhaps in the case of my son, it was a matter of him being in a place where
      he shouldn't have been," speculates Díaz. "It's important that they tell me
      where they left him. I don't have hate or vengeance in my heart. I just
      want to find my son," she says.

      Initially excited about attention promised to her son's case, Díaz sees no
      follow through on what were apparently hollow words. On March 18, 2003,
      Díaz and the Esperanza Association's lawyer met in Mexico City with José
      Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the head of Mexico's federal anti-organized crime
      unit. Federal investigators were sent to Mexicali to meet with Díaz and
      appeared to begin to study what had happened to her son, she said.

      Later, when Díaz tried to learn about progress in her son's case, the agents
      would not answer their cell phones. When she called Santiago's office she
      found that the case was moving from person to person within the agency.
      Díaz is now doubtful that there will be any follow through with the look
      into Erick's disappearance.

      Now,after having written to both President Fox and Attorney General Macedo
      de la Concha about the cases of disappeared residents of Baja California and
      Sinaloa, the Esperanza Association is pushing for a special prosecutor to
      look at their cases. Taking a cue from the now high-profile movement that
      has burgeoned over the issue of murdered and disappeared women in Chihuahua
      state, the organization is studying the possibility of drawing in the United
      Nations or Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

      Shades of the Dirty War

      The manner in which victims of organized crime in the borderlands
      disappear-forcibly abducted by well-organized commandoes carrying automatic
      weapons and communications equipment-recalls episodes from the Mexican
      government's war against guerrillas and dissidents in the 1970s, the
      so-called Dirty War. Those were the years when Mexican security forces like
      the Federal Security Directorate (DFS) joined together in the feared White
      Brigade with the mission of exterminating the gathering opposition. When
      the bodies of two guerrilla militants of the September 23 Communist League
      (L-23) were tossed in empty lots in Guadalajara back in 1974 after being
      allegedly tortured and executed by the DFS, the scene presaged common sights
      along the border a quarter-century later.

      Indeed, similarities between the politically-motivated disappearances of
      three decades ago and the criminally-motivated ones of today share more than
      mere coincidences. History and personality tie the Dirty War with the Narco
      Wars.

      Former Cd. Juárez resident Judith Galarza, who currently directs the
      Caracas-based Latin American Federation of Relatives Associations of
      Disappeared Persons (FEDAFEM), wasn't too surprised about PJE officers being
      linked to the brutal torture of victims recently recovered from
      "narco-graves" in Cd. Juárez.

      A longtime human rights activist, Galarza watched the passage of former PJE
      and Dirty War-linked commanders to the world of organized crime. According
      to Galarza, they include men like Refugio Rubalcava, who was executed along
      with his two sons in Cd. Juárez in 1994.

      In Galarza's view, the Dirty War served to institutionalize the use of
      torture in future generations of police. "We've denounced various
      incidents. For example, I remember a lot about a young man who was detained
      and had his tongue cut out and suffered an infinity of tortures," says
      Galarza.

      "This was because he was merely involved with the daughter of a judicial
      policeman. We pointed out this was a reflection of all the men from the
      White Brigade and judicial police that had been trained to torture."

      Rising as powerful enterprises in 1970s and 1980s, Mexico's modern crime
      syndicates were founded and promoted by veterans of the security forces
      including former DFS Commander and Juárez Cartel founder Rafael Aguilar
      Guajardo. Schooled in the doctrine of anti-communist national security,
      they were trained by the FBI, CIA, and the US Department of Defense at
      facilities like the US Army School of the Americas. Among them was former
      DFS head and reputed CIA asset Miguel Nazar Haro, who was once indicted in
      the United States for his role in a massive auto theft ring. After spending
      more than two months as a fugitive, Nazar was detained in February 2004 and
      jailed on an arrest warrant ordered by President Fox's Special Prosecutor
      for Crimes Against Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSSP) for
      his alleged involvement in the 1975 disappearance of L-23 militant Jesus
      Piedra, the son of internationally known human rights advocate Rosario
      Ibarra. Mexican and international human rights organizations have praised
      Nazar's arrest as a positive step toward ending impunity stemming from the
      Dirty War.

      Based on U.S. government documents obtained through the Freedom of
      Information Act and Mexican government papers culled from the National
      Archive in Mexico City, a joint team of researchers from the
      Washington-based, non-profit National Security Archive and Mexico's Proceso
      Magazine, have recently published extracts from the documents that clearly
      show how Washington was in the know about the Mexican government's reliance
      on repression and forced disappearance throughout the late 1960s and 1970s.
      But Washington might have done more than just turn a blind eye to the
      horror. Other accounts place "gringo" advisors at the scene of raids
      against suspected guerrilla supporters in Guerrero state during 1974 and Cd.
      Juárez in 1977.

      With Mexican guerrillas temporarily defeated by the end of the 1970s,
      elements of the security forces moved on to other pursuits. In the last
      three decades, a lengthening roster of Dirty War graduates have popped up in
      connection with auto theft networks, professional kidnapping and bank
      robbery rings, and of course, drug-smuggling syndicates. The accused
      murderers of legendary Mexican journalist Manuel Buendia, who was gunned
      down in Mexico City in 1984, hailed from the same milieu of national
      security warriors turned gangsters.

      The pattern of U.S.-trained security forces using their skills in the
      service of organized crime reappears more recently in the case of Los Zetas,
      a well-organized, sophisticated death squad in the service of the Gulf
      Cartel. Los Zetas are blamed for much of the recent gangland bloodletting
      in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Michoacán. Many of Los Zetas
      are considered to be deserted Mexican special forces soldiers from units
      called GAFEs, some of whom were trained at what used to be the School of the
      America's in Fort Benning, Georgia. Established after the 1994 Zapatista
      rebellion, the Mexican military envisioned the GAFEs as an elite special
      force that could be airlifted into hotspots.

      Acosta Chaparro and the Cd. Juárez Connection

      Emblematic of the Dirty War-Narco War connection are two imprisoned Mexican
      generals: Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro and Humberto Quiroz Hermosillo. The
      high-ranking officers were arrested by the Mexican military in August 2000
      and charged with illegal drug and organized crime offenses because of their
      purported relationships with the late head of the Juárez Cartel, Amado
      Carrillo Fuentes. Following a controversial military trial in late 2003,
      Acosta Chaparro and Quiroz Hermosillo were convicted on the drug charges and
      sentenced to prison terms of 15 and 16 years respectively.

      Both men also have been indicted by a military prosecutor for allegedly
      murdering 143 imprisoned detainees in Guerrero state and having their bodies
      tossed from airplanes and into Pacific Ocean during the mid-1970s.

      Quiroz Hermosillo was linked to the White Brigade, while then-Major Acosta
      Chaparro helped lead field operations against guerrillas of the Poor Peoples
      ' Party in Guerrero.

      Numerous testimonies by Guerrero residents link Acosta Chaparro to forced
      disappearance and mass murder from 1974 to 1981.

      Given a leave from the military, Acosta Chaparro commanded the Guerrero
      State Judicial Police, first in Acapulco and later in the entire state from
      1975 to 1981. During this period, nine Acapulco high school students were
      allegedly kidnapped by Acosta Chaparro's men, among them two young women.
      All 9 students remain missing.

      While directing state police operations, Acosta Chaparro commanded a gang of
      thugs known as "Los Tarin" or "Los Chihuahua". Led by the Tarin brothers of
      Durango and Chihuahua states, the group was so brutal in its treatment of
      the locals that even the Mexican Army, which practiced forced disappearance
      on a systematic scale in Guerrero, was so appalled that it forced the group
      to disband and leave Guerrero under extreme threats. Acosta Chaparro,
      however, went untouched at that moment.

      Like Acosta Chaparro, the Tarin clan later resurfaces in the intrigues of
      the Juárez Cartel. A protected witness of the US government Gustavo Tarin
      testified against Acosta Chaparro in the latter's criminal trial. A
      brother, Manuel Tarin, was murdered in a 2002 gangland-style shooting in
      Chihuahua City.

      AFAPD member Patricia Garibay, the sister of El Paso resident Jorge Garibay,
      who was abducted by men claiming to be police officers from a popular Cd.
      Juárez bar in 1998, contends that Acosta Chaparro had a hand in the forced
      disappearances of recent years. "He's mentioned in a lot of our
      disappearances. Mr. Vicente Carrillo, one of our local cartel leaders, is
      protected by the Mexican military," says Garibay.

      "Mr. Chaparro and all of them were involved in helping him bring in the
      drugs, distribute the drugs and also get rid of their enemies. So I also
      believe that he was involved in some of our disappearances." Despite his
      possible link to the disappearance of US citizens like Jorge Garibay in Cd.
      Juárez during the 1990s, the US government has not requested the extradition
      of Acosta Chaparro.

      Meanwhile, violent incidents tied to organized crime ushered in what
      promises to be a bloody year on the border and beyond. In Nuevo Laredo and
      Reynosa at least 11 "levantones" were reported during the first month of the
      new year.

      Additional sources for article: El Universal, El Mañana, Laredo Morning
      Times, Norte de Cd. Juárez, El Diario de Cd. Juárez, El Heraldo de
      Chihuahua, La Jornada, El Mexicano, Brownsville Herald, New York Times,
      El Paso Times, Proceso, Kate Doyle and the National Security Archive,
      Attorney General of the Republic (Mexico), Bajo Palabra, La Charola (Sergio
      Aguayo), CEFPRODHAC, and El Sur (Acapulco).

      Greg Bloom, Outreach Coordinator
      Center for Latin American and Border Studies
      New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
      Email address: gbloom@...
      Phone: (505) 646-6817



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