Mexican Military Accused of Sexual Abuse

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Accusations of sexual abuse have been levied against the Mexican military, already under the spotlight for human rights abuses and which plays a significant role in Mexico’s struggle with powerful drug cartels.

“In the war against drug trafficking, no control measures were incorporated into the performance of the armed forces, which has allowed widespread systematic abuse – including torture – to go unpunished,” Perseo Quiroz Rendon, director of Mexican human rights organization PRODH, said in a press conference.

Rendon was accompanied by representatives of Amnesty International (AI) and alleged sexual abuse victim Claudia Medina Tamariz. According to Tamariz, in 2012 Mexico Marines used threats, torture and sexual abuse to compel her into confessing to false charges and being a member of drug trafficking organization the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation. A tribunal, having heard reports certifying Tamariz’ torture from AI, PRODH and independent experts, absolved Tamariz of illegal weapons charges in February.

This is not the first time the armed forces have been accused of sexual abuse. In 2010 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Mexico to modify its military codes, following the rape of two indigenous sisters by soldiers. More recently, two female survivors of an army massacre in the town of Tlatlaya claim to have suffered torture and sexual harassment.

InSight Crime Analysis

With Mexican drug cartels often in possession of significant firepower and training, the nation has come to rely heavily on its armed forces in combating organized crime. As a result soldiers and marines have increased their operations in civilian areas and are regularly tasked with duties formerly carried out by police. However military training, which emphasizes surviving and winning engagements with enemy combatants, does not always lend itself to enforcing order in a lawful manner and can even invite human rights abuses.

Unfortunately falling back on the police may not be an option. Mexican police have had similar accusations leveled against them including a 2006 incident in which at least 26 female political demonstrators reported sexual violence from state police during prison transfers, an AI report (pdf) said.

Robust investigation of military sexual abuse allegations may also be a non-option. The Mexican government, which is currently restructuring the police through its “mando unico” or “single command” initiative in an attempt to stamp out corruption, may be less keen to mar the reputations of military forces who operated in high profile busts like the capture of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.   

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