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

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions of ...

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

 Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

Well-armed vigilantes in Mexico's Michoacan state have helped authorities dismantle a powerful criminal organization, but now the government may have a more difficult task: keeping Michoacan safe from the vigilantes and rival criminal groups.

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

After the lower house passed the controversial marijuana bill July 31, Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug, and provide a model for countries looking for alternatives to the world’s dominant drug policy paradigm. ...

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

Whether it is sustainable or not, the truce -- which the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 put into place March 2012 -- has changed the conventional thinking about who the gangs are and what is the best way to handle the most difficult law and order ...

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the country's police has become a key player in the underworld. This series of five articles explore the dark ties between criminal organizations and the government's foremost crime fighting institution.

Juarez after the War

Juarez after the War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality. InSight Crime looks at the role politicians, police, and for-hire street gangs played in the fighting -- asking who ...