Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yes, Mexican Soldiers Murdered Suspects: Officials

Public prosecutors in Mexico are filing charges against three soldiers accused of murdering civilians in the San Pedro Limon on June 30. But authorities are still presenting a contradictory narrative of the events, and the shakiness of the official story seems to suggest at least a partial cover-up.

Yesterday Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam announced that his office would be charging three military personnel with homicide, as Milenio reports.  Murillo said that the warehouse where 22 individuals were killed had been secured by the whole team of eight soldiers after brief firefight. Then, the three suspects allegedly opened fire in “a new series of gunshots that had no justification whatsoever.”

The AP notes that the attorney general did not mention witnesses’ claims that most of the 22 were killed after surrendering to the soldiers. Nor did he provide details on how many had been murdered vs. killed in an exchange of gunfire. 

Murillo also failed to explain why it took his office two and a half months to arraign the men, only doing so in the face of pressure from human rights advocates, the United States and UN officials.

As the New York Times points out, the narrative of events is “not likely to satisfy critics.” Indeed, holes are already appearing in the official story. Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope points out to the NYT the absurdity of claiming that a group of 22 gunmen was subdued by a team of eight in less than ten minutes, all while the soldiers suffered no casualties.

What’s more, Murillo’s assertion that the firefight was over in a matter of minutes directly contradicts recent remarks by National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) head Raul Plascencia. Last week, Plascencia told reporters that a CNDH investigation found that the clash between soldiers and the alleged gang members lasted roughly two hours.

Despite the suspicious inconsistencies in the story, the attorney general’s investigation should be seen as a major victory in the battle for greater civilian oversight of the Mexican military. In April, the country passed reforms to its Military Code of Justice to allow civil authorities to investigate and prosecute abuses, even if an internal army investigation is underway.

According to Animal Politico, this is the first case since the reforms where Mexican soldiers will be tried under the civilian system and not by military tribunals.


News Briefs
  • Two new polls have been published on Brazil’s electoral landscape, and the results appear to confirm that President Dilma Rousseff has rebounded, while support for Marina Silva is falling fast, as Reuters reports.  Datafolha shows Rousseff beating Silva in a second round vote by 49 percent to 41 percent, while Ibope has 42 percent for Rousseff and 38 percent for Silva.
  • The head of Mexico’s largest opposition party, Gustavo Madero of the PAN, has temporarily stepped down from his position to run for a congressional seat, El Universal reports. Reuters notes that Madero has been battling in an internal power struggle in the PAN over his cooperation with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s policy agenda.
  • In Guatemala, El Periodico reports that police official Pedro Garcia Arredondo will stand trial today in connection with the burning of the Spanish Embassy in 1980 after it had been occupied by dissidents, which killed 37 people. Plaza Publica has the reaction to the case from Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, whose father died in the fire, and the AFP notes that the court handling the case is the same one tasked with looking into the genocide charges against Efrain Rios Montt.
  • The government of El Salvador appears to have begun a new security strategy, breaking with the Funes administration’s past support for a gang-facilitated truce in favor of a comprehensive civil society-assisted effort. As El Pais and InSight Crime report, on Monday the government launched National Council for Citizen Security (CNSCC), which is to be comprised of Church representatives, security experts and political party figures as well as security officials. The CNSCC will also receive support from international organizations, namely the EU, UN and OAS.
  • The AP profiles the rise of Pentecostal churches as political powerbrokers in Brazil, noting the clout of televangelist preacher Silas Malafaia. While Silva’s Pentecostalism and decision to back away from LGBT issues has won her the support of evangelists like Malafaia, the news agency notes that the fact that most Pentecostal Brazilians are poor means they will also have a strong incentive to support Rousseff’s Workers Party.
  • The New York Times reports on new revelations on U.S.-Cuba relations, unearthed by the National Security Archive. According to recently unclassified record, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger pressured the Ford administration to respond to Cuba’s military foray in Angola by invading the island. Kissinger even went as far as to draw up plans to send Marines to Guantanamo Bay and strike military targets in Cuba.
  • Yesterday, the Obama administration announced the launch of a new program to give refugee status to young people who apply in U.S. consulates in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, to dissuade them from making the dangerous trek north. However, the impact of this program will likely be limited, as the NYT notes that officials say the program does not increase the number of refugee visas slated to be granted for the year.