Proceso (1-12-13) JoseCarrasco Araizaga
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
Since last September, Mexico's National Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the case of the Ojinaga "death squad" should go to a civilian court, but it has not ordered this and the case remains in the hands of the military justice system. It isn't just another case of abuse, but rather the story of systematic murders committed by a group of soldiers and officers who were acting like an organized crime armed group. This is part of that story, reconstructed by Proceso based on court files and the testimony of the participants.
MEXICO, D.F. (Proceso).- The afternoon of June 22, 2008, almost three months after the start of the Chihuahua Joint Operation ordered by Felipe Calderon, a platoon from the Third Non-quartered Infantry Company in Ojinaga (CINE: Tercera Compania de Infanteria No Encuadrada), under the command of Major Alejandro Rodas Cobon, went out to patrol the Mulatos area, a ranch east of that city.
The officer climbed into a Lobo pickup with extended cab that had been seized from drug traffickers and painted over in military green with the number 8013148, as if it were an official vehicle. The driver was Sergeant Second Class auto body repairman Andres Becerra Vargas. Maj. Rodas Cobon carried his duty weapon, a 9mm MP-5 submachine pistol, and another personal pistol, in .40 caliber, with blued finish.
In one of the trails going towards Mulatos, the soldiers saw a civilian in an all-terrain vehicle. He was wearing oversize jeans, white sleeveless T-shirt, and his head was shaved. The major called for the Army's urban patrol for Ojinaga, which was commanded by Infantry Lieutenant Gonzalo Arturo Huesca Isasi, who was in a Hummer at the front of his platoon of riflemen.
On the way back to CINE, on the dirt road between Mulatos and Ojinaga, the military squad again met up with Esau Samaniego Rey, "El Cholo" or "El Azteca." Major Rodas ordered Sgt. Becerra to stop the truck. He ordered him to spotlight the suspect with the pickup's headlights.
"I've got this fool on my list," Rodas Cobon told Becerra, a reference to the database of drug traffickers he maintained as second commander of the Third CINE, for which he was also known as Lince 1 (Lynx 1). The company commander, Jose Julian Juarez Ramirez, Lince, was on vacation.
Rodas Cobon called Verde (codename for Lt. Huesca), and ordered him to lift up the detainee's T-shirt, and turn him around in a circle so that the major could finish identifying him. He identified him as a "fucking azteca", that is, a member of the group Los Aztecas, armed branch of the Juarez cartel.
Rodas Cobon pulled out his cell phone and called Infantry Corporal Guillermo Arce Garcia. "I hope your wife is there with you," he told him, and ordered the driver to take him to that soldier's home. When they got to the house located on 14th Street of Colonia Porfirio Ornelas, they took the detainee, who was already blindfolded, off the truck. The corporal's wife identified him as the person who had attempted to kidnap the couple's son.
The major ordered Lt. Huesca and his men to take the detainee to the CINE base and to "work him over" to make him identify his boss, who ordered him to kidnap the minor, who was with him and how much he was going to get paid. "If possible, kill him," the major told the lieutenant, according to the statement that the driver sergeant made to the military court in Criminal Case No. 1982/2009.
Huesca took the detainee to a hut that was behind the dining hall of the military base. "I kept hearing the civilian's screams from the pickup truck, where I went to sleep," the driver sergeant goes on to say. Around 4:00 in the morning, Sgt. Alberto Alvarado Vazquez woke him up to to give him orders from Major Rodas to fill up the pickup's fuel tank and to fill up two extra 60 liter (about 15 gallons) fuel containers, one with gasoline and the other with diesel.
"I asked what the diesel was for, since the pickup used gasoline. The sergeant told him, 'It's all screwed up. We went too far with the fucking azteca'". Becerra states that Rodas Cobon ordered him to go out with Lt. Huesca to carry out a job.
He parked the pickup beside the hut and they loaded "something wrapped up in a blanket". Lt. Huesca and Sgt. Alvarado got into the cab and, in the rear, Infantry Corporals Carmen Omar Ramirez Jimenez and Rufino Pablo Cruz, as well as soldiers Azael Santiago Luna and one known as El Tacuarin or Pareja.
According to the driver, Huesca ordered him to take the highway to Camargo. After an hour or more on the road, before they got to the La Perla mine, he told him to take a dirt road on the El Trece ranch.
They took the road to Los Berrendos ranch, went past that, and, after driving about half an hour more, they got to some structures made out of wood and sheet metal. Huesca ordered El Tacuarin to climb up on a hill with a radio to tell them if anybody was coming.
The rest of the soldiers in the back of the truck tore down a shed to get firewood. They piled it up about three feet high. Infantry soldier Santiago Luna went to the truck for the diesel, while the two corporals unloaded the body. They poured the fuel over the body and the pile of wood. Corporal Carmen Omar Ramirez went for some dry brush, lit it with a cigarette lighter and threw it on the pile.
It took between five and six hours for the body, including the bones, to burn completely. They loaded the ashes of the campfire on the pickup and they dumped them along the way with shovels. Then, with handfuls of weeds, they cleaned the back of the truck. The group returned to CINE between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.
(Extracted from a report published in Proceso 1889, already in circulation)