Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, March 17, 2012

UNhelpful: The UN report on forced disappearances in Mexico

By Chris Covert

A post at the blog by Catalina Perez Correa last week detailed the circumstances by which 44 inmates at a prison in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon were killed allegedly by Los Zetas operatives.

According to the post, the deaths were not a brawl, but rather a deliberate and calculated massacre planned by prison officials and executed by Los Zetas operatives, who were then allowed to escape.  The new information emerged from what Ms Perez Correa described as bits of information gathered from disparate sources, electronic mostly  which painted a mosaic of treachery by prison officials in collusion with criminals.

The official explanation of the Apodaca prison massacre, lamented Ms. Perez Correa, "seems sufficient to overlap the incompetence in the best-of-the authorities and at worst, complicity..."

Unwittingly, Ms. Perez Correa has provided an insight into the problem of the nexus between government officials in the pay of organized crime and government officials unwilling to entertain the possibility of criminal conduct.  It is a strong match to the attitude of a Non-Government Organization report released last week.

The United Nations Mexico report on forced disappearances released ten days ago doesn't just underscore the contrasting possibilities concerning forced disappearances , it virtually elevates them into a missive of confusion and using contradictory concepts which not only do not provide much insight into the problem but also manages to darken what should be a bright spotlight into the nexus between violence and organized crime in Mexico.

The report comes from a visit made by three lawyers with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances that took place a year ago today.  Jasminka Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ariel Dulitzky from the University of Texas and Osman El Hajje of Lebanon were the members of the group which visited mostly government officials including military commanders in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua; Acapulco, Chilpancingo and  Atoyac de Alvarez municipalities in Guerrero, and Saltillo, Coahuila.

The problem of forced disappearances is real in Mexico and it is apparently massive.  As many as 5,400 missing person cases have been filed with various law enforcement agencies and civilian groups since 2007, the year Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa decided to  take on the drug cartels using the power of his military. The report places the number of missing at 4,618 missing between 2006 and 2010 inclusive, while civil organizations including human rights organizations, placed the number of missing at around 3,000.

Suspected forced disappearances went from four complaints in 2006 to 77 in 2010 in the Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) or human rights commission, as a description of how the problem has grown in Mexico.

According to Wikipedia, forced disappearances are described as:

...the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was drafted in 2006 and opened to be signed in in 2007.  Only 20 nations worldwide have ratified the agreement. Mexico is one of those countries which ratified the agreement. 

The Convention went into force in December 2010.  Mexico was one of the first countries to be visited by the Working Group.

Among the recommendations of the group was the "homogeneity" of state laws against forced disappearances, where now only eight Mexican states or political entities, Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, District Federal, Guerrero, Nayarit and Oaxaca states have a law on their books dealing with forced disappearances.  Forced disappearances is already on the Mexican federal law books as a crime.

The reason why having state laws dealing with forced disappearances while not directly stated, is so prosecutors can deal with presumably errant public officials who use their power to hold individuals against their will, or to make them disappear.  With the statistics provided, a reader could easily conclude that Mexican government officials were actively engaging in kidnapping and disappearances, which is clearly not the case. It is only the proviso within the convention where officials "refuse to acknowledge a disappearance" that the convention comes into force.

The standard is absurd in that it presumes that all government officials who do not recognize a missing person as missing is culpable for the disappearance because they have refused to provide information on a missing person.

The working group characterizes the situation with organized crime in Mexico as a "complex" and "complicated" situation.

Under the convention that assessment is an understatement.

Fortunately for Mexican government officials the report, without quoting any statistics, said a "large number" or kidnappings and disappearances are perpetrated by organized crime.  The report fails to state a ratio or a percentage, whether it is a majority, or a lesser "large number." The report also goes on to say that not all disappearances are caused by organized crime.

Cryptically, it says that it has "concrete, detailed and credible cases of disappearances carried out by public authorities or by criminal groups or individuals acting with the direct or indirect support of some officials."

That statement alone is pregnant with innuendo against Mexico's efforts against organized crime all without much supporting evidence, not even anecdotal evidence.  And because of the lack of evidence cited in the document, it is suspected that many of the cases the UN refers to that may involve government official complicity are likely anecdotal evidence.  If they are not, the report fails to note why such disappearances are widespread outside the work of organized crime with government officials.

Another problem the group has has emerged from meetings held with Mexican military officials specifically in Chilpancingo in Guerrero, Chihuahua and Saltillo, Coahuila. 

The report said that military officials admitted that some units were not under the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional's (SEDENA) command; that some of their units were under civilian direction, although the report does not state which units were under which civilian's direction.

In those talks group members said they were not provided with clear indications of how civilian legal authorities deal with civilians detained by the Mexican military.  What the group was told is anyone's guess.  Mexican military authorities say repeatedly in news releases and in other public events that civilians as well as contraband seized in incidents such as traffic stops and raids are turned over to authorities.    Military units while they may act independently, in such incidents as raids, they are dispatched through anonymous citizen's complaints taken by the military or through civilian dispatched means.

However, in case after case, Mexican military are usually very clear about their role in fighting the cartels: they are required to turn over everything they seize to civilian authorities, including suspects and dead bodies.  That standard of conduct make sense.  The last thing a republic such as Mexico needs in the shooting gallery it has become, are military units taking prizes or war booty.

Another problem that the Working Group has was apparently with talks with civilian authorities and their relationships with military units.  Those officials, the report claimed, had little idea of what specific military units were doing at a given moment, all without revealing which officials were interviewed, or even more generically which type of officials were spoken to. 

The report notes, snidely, that given the training Mexican military receives ill suits the military for the work of fighting crime, while claiming as proof the increase of human rights claims fielded by Mexican CNDH, going from 182 to more than 1,400 in 2010. 

In fact the Mexican Army maintains a human right department since reforms earlier last decade.  Within its Mexico City staff SEDENA's human rights department is tasked with investigating human rights claims. The military has always maintained that the overwhelming majority, quoted at 98 percent by SEDENA, are regarded as apocryphal, or as one unidentified Mexican Army field commander puts it:  "jokes."

The report further laments the "over-broad concepts of quasi-flagrancy" -- flagrancy in which criminal suspects are detained for several days without charge.  Apparently the institution of detaining suspects without charge for longer than a few hours has been banned, but the ban does not go into effect until 2016. However, Mexican civil jurisprudence does provide for detentions without charge for certain individuals considered too dangerous otherwise. Those detentions are limited to 40 days.  Mexican military units usually turns over  suspects captured following raids who are ordered into detention by a civilian court.

The group claimed it had received detailed documentation several cases of enforced disappearances that have been perpetrated by military in many states like Coahuila, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas -- all locations that organized crime and as well as armed radical leftist groups have in the past attempted to influence government or press against the security efforts in Mexico.

The nature of that information has also not been detailed in the report.

The Working groups stated concern are of instances in which military personnel had interrogated detainees and cases in which military have used torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Those reports are probably also anecdotal.

The Mexican military has long been subject to false charges of torture, often falsely conflated into a widespread practice..  For example, in the firefight in El Charco, Guerrero in 1998, the Mexican Army had been subject to charges of murdering innocent civilians  and then torturing civilians in  Acapulco in the aftermath.  It was later found that the charges were false, based on forensic and medical examinations.

The spotty information the working group reveals is very much in line with information several Mexican government agencies have about forced  disappearances.  The statistics vary, widely. 

The Mexican Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) has 2,044 cases considered missing persons.  The Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) has a list of SSP 4,400 cases, while the Procuraduria Justicia de  Distrito Federal lists 5,229 cases.  Finally the CNDH lists 5,397 cases.  How many overlap is anyone's guess.

The definition of a forcibly disappeared individual while written in the convention in many cases do not match the individual cases, and by the Working Group's own definition.  If organized crime groups are engaging in kidnapping and have the paid clandestine assistance of police officers or government officials, the question arises just how much responsibility does Mexico have for every case.

The question is not asked nor are information provided since the circumstances in such a dangerous environment in which criminal groups use kidnapping and murder as a means for the settling of accounts and of maintaining income. The variances are seemingly endless: kidnapping for ransom,  kidnapping when running afoul of a local official, or  local drug lord or kidnapping for sex or human trafficking. 

Even if low level police officers or officials are aware of a disappearance, why  would that make that specific case a forced disappearance by definition provided in the convention?  Inasmuch as the Working Group acknowledges -- in less than honest terms -- just how pervasive organized crime is and how activities such as kidnapping are used as a means of income, the report doesn't say.

It is likely neither the working group knows nor do Mexican officials.

Where does the report leave the issue of forced disappearances is the question and for that the Working Group provides only a non-sequitur:  It recommends the government of Mexico end forced disappearances by leaving the field to organized crime.  The logical fallacy in that recommendation is so blatant as to defy description.

Calderon fielded the Mexican Army and Naval Infantry to the streets to  fight organized crime, and organized crime's reaction since 2007 has been to tighten security.

And that usually involves murder and that sometimes involves kidnapping.

Perhaps to the rest of the international community, winning a war against organized crime by losing it may be a charming and endearing rejoinder to the existential threat Mexico faces, but it doesn't help the disappeared nor the rest of the Mexico.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for


  1. if there aren't any ransom calls then the missing are already dead

  2. Its official Chapo Guzman ismaking another play for nuevo laredo 2 halcones were hung by a bridge and left with a narcomanta signed by.the sinaloa cartel holy shit I always knew a big war was guna pop in nuevo laredo here it comes breaking news as we speak balaceras and bloqueos reported sat night nsunday morning march 18 blrderlandbeat areu on this???????,,

    1. Thats why there killing the main boss every time one gets promoted . Thats the main plaza for the zetas i hope chapo wins that plaza

  3. Any outside objective evaluation of the Mexican lunacy has got to help. It has been clear for years that Mexican penal systems have been/are rotten to the core,along with a shocking number of other govt power holders. The problem is how does the Civelized world force a unwilling Mexico to reform?

    1. Thats why I keep asking about any outside election monitors. Why isnt calderon BEGGING for outside assistance? That seems fishy....
      Is the lady corrupted??

  4. breaking news as we speak balaceras and bloqueos reported sat night nsunday morning march 18 blrderlandbeat areu on this???????,,

    we are now

  5. Or better yet, does the civilized world force the USA to clean up its act, stop its massive drug comsunption in order stop the violence in Mexico?

  6. Again, any outside monitoring planned for election?? Guess not. Might be a good idea !!!!


  8. The Mexican military should provide air support to the Sinaloas as they free Nuevo Laredo from tyranny. Kill all the fucking Zetas this time.


  9. the UN is made up of evil hypocrites you cant ever trust them cowards.

  10. March 18, 2012 12:33 PM

    civilized like Mexico with their daily kidnappings, beheadings, corruption, drime, and murder? btw drug consumption in Mexico has more than tripled in the last ten years.

  11. If Chapo send more men to Nuevo Laredo will the CDG also attack the zetas in Nuevo Laredo possibly a joint effort...

  12. Learn how to read english. "Civilzed world" means the world not only Mexico. With the exception of beheadings all that stuff also happens in the USA. Why are you ignorant of this?

    The USA is the #1 consumer of drugs both legal and illegal. I repeat, when should the civilized world force an unwilling USA to stop it's massive drug consumption which fuels the violence in mexico?


  14. March 20, 2012 9:39 AM .Idiotic argument,what will you whine about when you become a huge consumer of drugs yourselves.You are the 2nd biggest producer of opium,who's fault is that.You are the ignorant one with your racist bullshit against the US.How can you possibly blame ANYONE for your rampant criminality and violence?It truly is pathetic."fuels the violence in mexico"Mexican on Mexican,yet you blame the US?"massive drug consumption"Do you realize how much worse your economy would be without the illicit cash stream?It is bad enough,but imagine it without the billions?This whole argument is childish and pathetic,trotted out by US hating Mexicans.WHY?

  15. March 19, 2012 3:54 PM

    the level of violence and corruption in the US is not comparable to Mexico's, not even close. Where in the US do you hear about mass graves, random grenade attacks on the public, bodies/narcomantas hanging from bridges, or people dissolved in drums of acid? Where in the US is the corruption so bad that you have whole police forces employed by drug cartels? On which US highways do convoys of 10-20 cars of armed men set up road blocks to carjack, kidnap, and/or kill whoever drives thru? Clearly beheadings is not the only exception.

    Criminals in Mexico act with impunity. Mexico's justice system is a joke and THIS is what fuels the violence. Only 2% of those arrested involved in organized crime are ever brought to trial in Mexico. Prosecutions rates like this are unacceptable in the midst of a drug war.

    Mexico is the unwilling country. Although the US isn't without some blame (F&F, drug consumption), billions of dollars a year are spent on demand reduction ($5.6 billion requested in Y2011). Whether it is in vain or to consider legalization are both separate issues but everything under the sun is being used to stem drug consumption in the US. The same cannot be said about Mexico's efforts to root out corruption and get serious on crime.

    Also I repeat, consumption rates in Mexico have skyrocketed in the last 10 years, especially among cocaine (use tripled between 2006-08) and meth (use quadrupled over last 10 years). Mexico currently consumes roughly 1/4 the amount of cocaine the US does and the number of addicts are rising. Mexico is a ticking time bomb.

  16. What cowards! When the truth hits close to home there is nothing left but to cry like a little baby. LOL!

    For the one saying when Mexico becomes a huge consumer of drugs - thats a hypothetical. I'm dealing with the real world, with facts. Take a course in informal logic than get back with me when your ready to debate a big boy.

    For the poster: You may be right about Mexico. But facts are facts. The USA needs to clean it's act up. They are the #1 consumers of drugs both legal and illegal. Such a shame a beautiful and powerful country has an ugly problem.

  17. March 20, 2012 6:31 PM .
    Son,you got a major problem.You a racist.This aint nothing to do with drugs."Such a shame a beautiful and powerful country has an ugly problem"Meant to inflame?yes,i got it.
    Talk about relevant issues to help Mexico,not bullshit mantras whining about the US all the time.Anyway,i,m thru arguing with racist idiots,who trot the same tired,and old,reasons about why Mexico is floundering.The US?,,,grow up.

  18. Mexico has a major drug problem ..the main reason all the effort to cross the border is because it is worth ten times the money in the USA.. to blame it all on the USA is bullshit

  19. and also ..i bet that 99% of the people blaming the USA are NOT Mexicans ..but chicanos who think they wannabee mexicans..real Mexicans usually don't even talk that kind of stupid shit..only wannabees who try to borrow a set from Mexico

  20. March 20, 2012 6:31 PM

    By 2009 Mexico consumed 28 tons of cocaine with a population of 113 million yearly (US: 88 tons/pop 311 mil). By 2008 crack cocaine use was six times greater than in 2002. The number of self reported addicts increased 51% during the same period. Currently the domestic drug market in Mexico is valued at $5 billion annually. At this rate we are not speaking hypothetical, hermano.

    I've never argued or made excuses for America's drug consumption as the US numbers are just as sobering. What this shows is that no country is immune to ugly drug problems.

    Also, saying Mexico's violence is fueled solely by US drug consumption is misleading when Mexico is drowning in corruption. In 2006 53% of municipalities in Mexico were under the control of drug gangs. A report released in January by Edgardo Buscaglia (advisor to UN, World Bank) and his team put the number at 73% by 2011. Governors, Senators, Mayors, police forces, and drug gangs working arm in arm and the US needs to clean up it's act?

  21. LOL! Well, cry all you want I'm not going to stop telling the truth.

    Mexico is a whole lot worse than the USA in many levels but facts are facts. The USA is the #1 consumer of drugs both legal and illegal and it fuels the violence in Mexico. If all drug consumption stopped tomorrow I believe the cartels, when it comes to selling drugs, will come to an end. Of course, there is human smuggling ect but I'm talking only about drugs and violence.

  22. March 21, 2012 6:33 PM

    If all drug consumption stopped tomorrow of course the cartels would stop dealing drugs. That's a hypothetical. Unfortunately we live in the real world where a global market for drugs exists.

    Human smuggling or any other criminal element often involve violence. Kidnapping and extortion involve violence 100% of the time wouldn't you agree? Violence in Mexico will "never come to an end" because criminals are allowed to act with impunity. Mexican officials are either incompetent or corrupted to do shit.

  23. Prohibition and what went on in the USA back then is not a hypothetical. It's historical fact. Hence, my comments about drug consumption in the USA and how it relates to the violence in Mexico.

  24. March 21, 2012 6:33 PM.
    I don't know why people answer clowns like this?
    Keeps trotting out the same bullshit,all the time.Its like arguing about god.Nah,aint diggin on that shit.

  25. Yeah, I agree with you. I shouldn't answer clowns but facts are facts. The USA is the #1 consumer of drugs both legal and illegal - It's basic supply and demand. Mexican cartels supply the poison the citizens of the USA love to put in their bodies.

  26. And by the way, for all you neanderthals who think I'm anti-american, well, nothing could be further from the truth. I just like facts. Here is another fact: according to the Centers for Disease Control in the USA there were over 49,000 VIOLENT deaths in the USA in 2003. That's a little more the all the deaths in Mexico during the last 6 years!


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