On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in which it denounced human rights violations at the hands of security forces in Mexico, as well as impunity for drug-related violence. In the Mexico chapter of its 200-page World Report 2011, the human rights organization says it found “strong evidence to suggest that members of Mexican security forces have participated in over 170 cases of torture, 39 disappearances, and 24 extrajudicial executions.” Moreover, noted José Miguel Vivanco, HRW director of the Americas, while there has been a surge in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón took office, there has not been a comparable increase in criminal investigations. Only 997 of the 45,000 deaths related to drug violence have been formally investigated, and of those, a mere 22 have resulted in convictions. Vivanco also noted that, since the crimes are often attributed to disputes between drug cartels, the deaths of the victims are sometimes dismissed.
In the latest edition of Americas Quarterly, released yesterday, Alejandro Poiré, director of Mexico’s Center for Intelligence and National Security, and José Merino, professor of political science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, debate the possibility of success in Mexico’s war on drugs. Poiré believes the war can be won, asserting, “Mexico has chalked up major victories—and will continue to do so, thanks to its multi-track approach that focuses not just on eliminating drug trafficking, but on building stronger law enforcement institutions and reinforcing our social fabric.” Merino, on the other hand, argues, “If winning means eliminating all drug production, trade and consumption, then the only honest answer is ‘no.’ The strategic lines drawn by the Mexican government rely on ‘containment and weakening’ criminal organizations, not ‘elimination,’” he says.
José Miguel Vivanco delivered the report in person to judicial authorities, military officials and President Calderón—noting that this last meeting was surprisingly constructive. The HRW report recommends a reform of the military justice code such that human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces be tried in civil rather than military courts. It also demands that the code prohibit admitting into court testimony obtained through torture.