This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Pressure for Results in Mexico

When corruption undercuts good police work, pressure to falsify results builds to the point where innocent men and women are tagged and persecuted for crimes they did not commit.

What's worse is when torture is involved.

On the 21st of June, 2008, 30 members of the Mexican federal police (PFP) interrupted a child's party in Tijuana and arrested 58 guests and the lead singer of the hired band. Now, over a year later, information has surfaced to suggest that every single one of these "suspects" were innocent. Beyond the horror of being falsely accused and forgotten in a Mexican prison, many of these people were tortured and forced to admit that they were members of the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), the drug trafficking organization that operates out of Tijuana.

One man's story is particularly disturbing. He was the godfather of the birthday child.

Cristian Jesus Sotelo Mendoza, along with the rest, found himself in the basement of a military base somewhere in Tijuana. For a period of time he cannot remember, he was tortured, threatened, and ultimately forced to admit that he was someone called "El Muletas" a wanted criminal and member of the AFO.

Sotelo Mendoza told Ricardo Ravelo of Proceso magazine in this week's latest issue that he was taken into a separate room from the others where both members of the police and soldiers punched and kicked him.

Then they placed a wet hood on his head with a second bag covering the hood. The aggressors then began hitting him in the stomach with a rod so he would inhale deeply and choke on the wet hood, shouting and threatening to kill him.

Sotelo Mendoza was handcuffed and forced to sit in a chair. The bag and hood was removed. The interrogators then took a wet shirt and stretched it across his face before throwing buckets of water in his face and kicking him in the stomach to force him to breathe in the water.

The torture didn't stop there. The forced chili peppers up his nose before taking him to another room where he was stripped naked pushed to the floor and forced to endure long secessions of physical attacks.

The next day, together with his brother-in-law, Sotelo Mendoza was forced to run to the end of a hall and into a room packed with Mexican press. When Sotelo Mendoza opened his eyes, he faced the Mexican press, standing behind a table of weapons he had never seen.

He, along with his brother-in-law, was presented as one of the lieutenants of the AFO, known as El Muletas. His brother-in-law was presented as "La Perra." The third man in the room was the vocalist from the band hired to perform at the birthday party. He was presented as "El Gordo Villarreal."

After the press conference, the three men along with another 37 of the original 59 who were arrested at the party were transferred to a separate military prison where they were held for another 40 days, without charge. When a charge did come through, all but 22 were let go.

And those 22 people, who apparently did nothing wrong more than attend a little girl's party have spent the past year in prison, apart from being tortured and presented as people they are not.

By now, most of these people have been released, except for the father of the birthday girl, who is still in prison, accused of being La Perra despite the fact that the Mexican Attorney General's office announced on 6 July 2009 that the real man, known as La Perra, had been captured.

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