Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mexico’s CNDH: Soldiers Killed 15 in Tlatlaya Massacre

Yet another version has emerged of the events surrounding the death of 22 suspects at the hands of soldiers in the town of Tlatlaya on June 30. For two months, both state and federal officials denied that any wrongdoing had occurred, saying that all the victims had died in a shootout even as local and international press reported on witnesses’ claims that all but one of the victims had been executed.

This continued until late September, when Mexico’s Defense Ministry (SEDENA) announced the arrest of eight personnel in connection with the death (this has since risen to 16). Two weeks later, the office of the Attorney General (PGR) announced that four soldiers would be prosecuted  for the alleged murder of eight suspects, while the remaining 14 had been killed in an exchange of gunfire.

Now, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has turned this story on its head. In a summary of the group’s own investigation (.pdf)  released yesterday, CNDH President Raul Plascencia called on the SEDENA, PGR and the government of Mexico state to widen their inquiries into the Tlatlaya killings, saying that it had established that soldiers executed at least 12 and probably 15 of the 22. Contrary to the military’s claims, the initial firefight lasted no more than ten minutes, as the suspects surrendered quickly. As Animal Politico reports, the CNDH accused the soldiers of rearranging their bodies after the incident in order to make the deaths fit the official story.

It remains to be seen how the government will respond to the CNDH’s non-binding recommendations, but the continued absence of the 43 disappeared students in Guerrero and the continued discovery of unrelated mass graves in the area do not exactly inspire confidence in Mexican authorities.

News Briefs
  • The AFP reports that U.S. State Department source has said that the Obama administration is open to the idea of collaborating with Cuban officials to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. "We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Cuba to confront the Ebola outbreak. Cuba is making significant contributions by sending hundreds of health workers to Africa," the source reportedly told the news agency.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s apparent slight surge in the polls recently, becoming the latest U.S. media outlet to profile the president’s support base among the rural and urban poor.
  • As the search for Mexico’s missing students drags on and new graves are being uncovered, the Associated Press reports on Mexico’s difficulty with identifying remains and the slow pace of documenting disappearances.
  • In an op-ed for the New York Times, Clarin opinion editor Fabian Bosoer and historian Federico Finchelstein criticize a new deal reached between the Argentine and Russian governments that will pave the way for a Spanish language version of the state-owned Russian news agency RT to air in the South American country. To the authors, the agreement is an example of what they describe as a regional march towards “Putin’s approach to media freedom,” in which Latin America’s populist governments are increasingly becoming hostile to independent journalism.
  • InSight Crime offers an update on Mexico’s controversial decision to legalize the so-called “self-defense” militias in Michoacan state, noting that the recent death of a militia leader lends weight to claims that officials have failed to properly equip the groups and bring them into the ranks of the military’s Rural Defense Corps.
  • McClatchy reports on opposition to the Australian El Dorado gold mining project in El Salvador, a mine that environmentalists say would cause devastating environmental harm to affected communities. The future of the mine is being decided by a World Bank tribunal in DC, which is expected to issue a ruling sometime early next year.
  • The Washington Post reports on the campaign efforts of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her challenger Aecio Neves in the latter’s home state of Minas Gerais, noting that his record as governor there has been both attacked by critics and applauded by supporters.
  • The Miami Herald’s Jim Wyss profiles the reactions to the Colombian peace negotiations in Havana among conflict victims, finding that despite all they have endured, many of Colombia’s 6.7 million victims are more interested in reconciliation and peace than revenge.