Mexico in Uproar Over "Torture" Videos
- Mexico in Uproar Over "Torture" Videos
Wednesday 02 July 2008
The Associated Press
US contractors are reportedly teaching torture methods to Mexican
police. This photo shows a naked Iraqi detainee cowering under
threat from an American military dog in the infamous Abu Ghraib
prison. (Photo: The New Yorker)
Mexico City - Videos showing Leon police practicing torture
techniques on a fellow officer and dragging another through vomit at
the instruction of a U.S. adviser created an uproar Tuesday in
Mexico, which has struggled to eliminate torture in law enforcement.
Two of the videos - broadcast by national television networks and
displayed on newspaper Internet sites - showed what Leon city Police
Chief Carlos Tornero described as training for an elite unit that
must face "real-life, high-stress situations," such as kidnapping
and torture by organized crime groups.
But many Mexicans saw a sinister side, especially at a moment when
police and soldiers across the country are struggling with scandals
over alleged abuses.
"They are teaching police ... to torture!" read the headline in the
Mexico City newspaper Reforma.
Human rights investigators in Guanajuato state, where Leon is
located, are looking into the tapes, and the National Human Rights
Commission also expressed concerned.
"It's very worrisome that there may be training courses that teach
people to torture," said Raul Plascencia, one of the commission's
One of the videos, first obtained by the newspaper El Heraldo de
Leon, shows police appearing to squirt water up a man's nose - a
technique once notorious among Mexican police. Then they dunk his
head in a hole said to be full of excrement and rats. The man gasps
for air and moans repeatedly.
In another video, an unidentified English-speaking trainer has an
exhausted agent roll into his own vomit. Other officers then drag
him through the mess.
"These are no more than training exercises for certain situations,
but I want to stress that we are not showing people how to use these
methods," Tornero said.
He said the English-speaking man was part of a private U.S. security
company helping to train the agents, but he refused to give details.
A third video transmitted by the Televisa network showed officers
jumping on the ribs of a suspect curled into a fetal position in the
bed of a pickup truck. Tornero said that the case, which occurred
several months earlier, was under investigation and that the
officers involved had disappeared.
Mexican police often find themselves in the midst of brutal battles
between drug gangs. Officials say that 450 police, soldiers and
prosecutors have lost their lives in the fight against organized
crime since December 2006.
At the same time, several recent high-profile scandals over alleged
thuggery and ineptness have reignited criticisms of police conduct.
In Mexico City last month, 12 people died in a botched police raid
on a disco.
The National Human Rights Commission has documented 634 cases of
military abuse since President Felipe Calderon sent more than 20,000
soldiers across the nation to battle drug gangs.
And $400 million in drug-war aid for Mexico that was just signed
into law by President George W. Bush doesn't require the U.S. to
independently verify that the military has cleaned up its fight, as
many American lawmakers and Mexican human rights groups had insisted.
The videos may seem shocking, but training police to withstand being
captured is not unusual, said Robert McCue, the director of the
private, U.S. firm IES Interactive Training, which provides computer-
based training systems in Mexico.
"With the attacks on police and security forces in Mexico that have
increased due to the drug cartel wars, I'm not surprised to see this
specialized kind of training in resisting and surviving captivity
and torture," he said.
Associated Press Writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this
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