Mexico security forces on patrol

Reports of torture and ill treatment by security officials in Mexico have risen nearly 600 percent over the past decade, according to Amnesty International, in part linked to the militarization of the war on drugs in the country.

According to a report by Amnesty International (pdf) released on September 4, cases of torture and mistreatment by security officials in Mexico have drastically increased between 2003 and 2013. There were 1,505 reported cases of torture or abuse in 2013, representing nearly a 600 percent increase from the 219 cases of torture and abuse reported in 2003.

The report also detailed the lack of progress in investigating torture cases. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission verified less than one percent of the complaints it received regarding police abuse. Meanwhile none of the 7,164 complaints from 2010 to 2013 ended in convictions on torture charges.

According to the report, cases of torture and abuse began to rise significantly in 2006, when the Mexican government began its so-called "War on Drugs." "The large-scale deployment of the army and navy marines in recent years to combat organized crime has been a key factor in the increased use of torture," the report stated.

InSight Crime Analysis

Since the inception of Mexico's assault on organized crime in 2006, authorities have relied on military training of police forces as a way to help prepare local police to confront drug cartels. However, Amnesty International is not the first non-governmental organization to draw a link between a more militarized police force and an increase in human rights abuses by Mexican security officials.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

In practice, President Enrique Peña Nieto hasn't shifted much from the highly militarized approach favored by former President Calderon, although Peña Nieto has certainly downplayed the emphasis on security policy in contrast to his predecessor. At the core of Peña Nieto's strategy has been the creation of the gendarmerie, meant to lessen Mexico's dependence on using the military against drug traffickers. However, it is still unclear whether the gendarmerie – which is largely dependent on former soldiers to fill its ranks – will actually achieve this. 

It's also worth considering appointments such as the hiring of an army special forces commander to lead the security crackdown in Michoacan state last year. Such a move flies in the face of Peña Nieto's alleged "softer" approach to combating organized crime. 

There have been other voices in the region calling for a different strategy. During a 2013 meeting of security officials and experts in the region – including representatives from Mexico – those who attended called for the demilitarization of police forces, citing their ineffectiveness to control violence and their penchant for committing human rights violations.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...