Felipe Cobain R. for Proceso (6-12-2013)
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
GUADALAJARA, Jal. (Proceso).-- Sergeant Second Class Aaron Israel Gonzalez Espino was left epileptic, extremely thin, fragile and with psychological damage after long sessions, days of torture in the XXI Military Zone in Morelia, inflicted to make him admit guilt for crimes allegedly committed by other military personnel.
Gonzalez Espino always said he was innocent despite the punishment inflicted during March and April, 2010, by military personnel who were members of the elite GAFE (Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales; Airborne Special Forces Group) and agents of the Military Judicial Police.
Lucid despite consequences that left him on the verge of death, the sergeant from the 37th Battalion, based in Zamora narrates his hazardous story.
Confined in the military prison of the V Military Region, based at La Mojonera, Zapopan, he recounts that he joined the Army in June, 2001, that he never got into trouble and that -- this is important -- he was always declared to be healthy in the yearly physical examinations done by the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena: Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional).
Everything went bad on March 31, 2010, he says. He was on leave when he got a call from a corporal nicknamed "El Nipon". The corporal gave the phone to Colonel Andres Ojeda Ramirez, who told Gonzalez Espino he would have to present himself in Morelia, and that they would take him there.
"El Nipon" went to pick him up at his house in Zamora. Without telling him what it was about, they put him in a pickup "that was driven by Corporal Demetrio Diego, and was also carrying Lt. Juan Manuel Vidal and military personnel with their faces covered."
When they got to Morelia, he asserts, they took him to the headquarters in the city. There, they brought him before the chief of the general staff, Gabriel Rincon. "He took me to the "gafes" (special forces soldiers) who were on the second floor of the XXI Military Zone. He told them, 'take care of him for me.' And they tied my hands behind my back and blindfolded me. They kept me there without food or water that day and did not explain to me why they were doing this," he recalls.
The next day, some people came to the place where he was being detained: "They told me that I was "El Espanol" ("the Spaniard"), which I denied, and they began to beat me: 'Somebody has already fingered you and recognizes you as "El Espanol.' Then they brought the 'colonel soldier'. I didn't see him, but I heard when they were beating him severely. After the beating, they put him in front of me, uncovered my face and he identified me as 'El Espanol".
That's how he began to learn that he was being accused of being in collusion with narcos and passing information to La Familia Michoacana.
The beatings intensified. "They slapped my face, the back of my head and my ears until they were left ringing. Two people picked me up and took me into the baths in the 2nd Company of the 12th Infantry Battalion."
They put him under the shower and were asking him how much he was paid to pass information. He answered that he had never passed information and would never do that. "Then you're giving it out for free?' No Sir, I've never given out information,'" he answered.
Afterwards, "one of them began to throw water on me over a wet cloth and they put a bag on me that covered my nose and mouth and tried to asphyxiate me by force. I don't know how, but I began to kick until I saw everything go white. They would get on top of my head and yell at me: "Die, fucker! I don't give a shit if you die, they've given you up, you're dead! I don't give a damn, die, already!", he remembers.
But the sergeant insisted he was innocent. "How would you like it if we plant drugs, grenades on your brothers or your parents? How many years do you think they'll do?' 'I don't know anything,' I answered. They asked me what I did in the (military) area. I told him I was a medical emergency technician and ambulance driver, and, on the side, I did carpentry work that commanders would ask for." He remembered that he was also the driver for the Commander of the XXI Military Zone himself, Mauricio Sanchez Bravo.
A little later, a loud laugh shook him up. "That's how I like it, for them not to say anything because that way I have more fun," said the guy who laughed. "Welcome to the second phase," he spit out. "They poured hot water on my face, cold water, hot water, cold water and they began to give me electric shocks. 'That's how I like it, when they don't talk, because I have more fun,' he told me. They left the wires connected to my foot and they would press on my knees so I could not bend them. My body would get stiff."
The man who enjoyed torturing went farther: "'OK, since you don't want to admit you're 'El Espanol' and that you work for the Familia, I'm going to keep going higher until I get to, you know where? To your balls, because you already have four children, you don't need them.' And he began to give me electric shocks until he got to my testicles. I don't know how many times they shocked me, but I really would have rather died at that moment. I couldn't stand it."
At the same torture session, he claims, a military judicial police officer joined in. "One of those military judicial police officer, who I can remember quite well because of the way he talked, his cell phone rang and it was his girlfriend or somebody. He told her: 'It's just that I'm working, really!...You don't believe me?' And he started shocking me over and over and he put his phone to my mouth and was asking me: 'You're passing information to La Familia?' I said, 'No,' and he kept on shocking me. Then he said: "Did you hear that, love? I'm working."
That night, he assured us, he heard how they tortured other people.
Soon afterwards he started to urinate crimson-colored (urine): "My testicles hurt. I pissed red, I don't know how bright red it was." It was April 2nd.
It was not until the next day that he was brought before a military judge (MP; Ministerio Publico militar). And when he was in front of the military MP, testifying, he declared he was innocent. "I told the MP colonel that I was not 'El Espanol' nor was I a member of La Familia."
After that, the torture stopped. But not the harassment.
Between April 7 or 8, they took him to sign a "disciplinary corrective" document issued by his battalion because, supposedly, a G-3 rifle had been lost. Now they were investigating him for that.
It was not until April 13 or 14, he recalls, that they took off the handcuffs and his blindfold. They paid him his salary. It was not until then that his relatives could visit him.
On the morning of April 19 they informed the sergeant and seven other detainees -- who testified against him under torture -- that there was an order for their arrest... because of the "lost" rifle. They transferred them to the military prison, where Aaron Israel Gonzalez Espino (soldier number C-6373801) is serving the sentence imposed in Cause No. 345/2010.
As a result of all this, he tried to commit suicide a year later. They took him to the Central Military Hospital in Mexico City. He was treated in the neurosurgery section for serious depression: "A history of convulsive crises.
The patient states that it began in 2010. This has happened to him on six or eight occasions, and on two of these incidents he has presented relaxation of his sphincter muscles, two urinary and one fecal. The subject class (soldier) is incapacitated in the first category for active military service because he suffers from epilepsy," reads the medical report.
However, once he was stabilized, they returned him to the same prison, despite a recommendation from the National Human Rights Commission and a protective order issued by the Fifth District Court.
The causes, in the air...
The sergeant says it didn't do him any good to have been the driver for the Commander of the XXI Military Zone, Brigadier General Mauricio Sanchez Bravo --retired -- and his wife. On the contrary: he believes that the commander himself may have set him up to protect himself.
It isn't clear to the sergeant why they went against him. All he remembers is that, before he was arrested, he became aware that someone was following him. Afraid he would be kidnapped, he "verbally informed Gen. Mauricio Sanchez Bravo, Infantry Lieutenants Fierro, counterintelligence commissioner, and Mario Sosa." He explains: "I was afraid I would be abducted (levantado), or that they would do something to the family of my commanding general, since I was I was the driver for him and his wife."
When he told this story during his detention, one of his captors speculated: "They may have wanted to get at our general..."
During the conversation with this weekly journal, Sgt. Gonzalez Espino assured us that he had never received an unlawful proposal from anybody, and that, if that had happened, he would have informed his superiors: after all, his life was at risk.