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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, November 21, 2016

Torture haunts Mexico despite laws meant to eliminate it

Posted by DD republished from The Washington Post


This July 2, 2016 photo, shows the front entrance of Juan Carlos Soni Bulos' house in Tanquian de Escobedo, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Soni says that when he was taken by Mexican Marines, he knelt before a wooden figure of Jesus outside his front door, kissed its feet and prayed: "Lord, only you know where they are taking me. Help me return well." (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
TANQUIAN DE ESCOBEDO, Mexico When Juan Carlos Soni Bulos heard his front door being smashed in one November morning, he frantically scrolled through his phone to call for help.

Outside the human rights activist's bedroom window, a Mexican marine in a black mask and helmet trained a rifle on him. "Drop the phone or I'll shoot," he said.

The marines blindfolded him, bound him and took him with four relatives and friends to a dimly lit, windowless warehouse. Then hours of torture began, Soni says — beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual abuse. He heard his teenage nephew scream as they applied electric shocks to the boy's ribs.

Soni's tormenter said, "This is going to make you not want to defend rights anymore."

In the face of strong international condemnation, Mexico says it is taking steps to stop the use of torture by its security forces. After the United States withheld $5 million on account of Mexico's human rights record, the U.S. State Department in September recommended to Congress that full funding be restored. The nearly $2.5 billion Merida Initiative pays to equip and train Mexican security forces and support justice system reforms.

However, there is still widespread impunity around the use of torture by security forces. From December 2006 through October 2014, the Attorney General's Office registered 4,055 complaints of torture, nearly one-third of them against the military. Yet over almost the same period, only 13 police and soldiers were sentenced for torture. Nobody has been charged in Soni's case.

Also, one in five reports on torture cases filed by Mexico's National Human Rights Commission between 1994 to 2014 were against marines, according to the nonprofit Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights. But none of those sentenced over roughly the past decade were marines. The marines and the defense department did not respond to requests for an interview.

Soni had far more resources than most victims of torture. He had a politically active family and connections in the human rights world. In the late 1990s, he worked as an international human rights observer for the United Nations in Guatemala. When he returned to Mexico, he continued to work in the indigenous communities of the Huasteca region.

November 9, 2013, was not the first time marines visited his home in central Mexico's San Luis Potosi state, a lush landscape of sugarcane fields, rolling hills and waterfalls. Almost five months earlier, on June 22, 2013, Soni was driving home from teaching in the early afternoon when his sister called to tell him to stay away; marines and federal police were at the house.

That day they grabbed Luis Enrique Biu Gonzalez, Soni's gardener, who also lived at his home. They beat him and asphyxiated him with a plastic bag, Biu says. A marine pointed a pistol at his head, asked if he was gay and threatened sexual violence, all the time demanding to know where Soni was.

The marines took Soni's computers, which held records of human rights cases he documented. They returned in the middle of the night. With the house empty, they grabbed whatever they had not carried off in the first raid.

Soni does not know exactly why the marines targeted him. It could have been the human rights complaints he helped people file against them and other security forces in the area. Or somebody with influence might have perceived him as a political threat.

Soon after the June raid, Soni sought advice from his contacts at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They told him to get help from the Mexican government's protection program.

Soni was enrolled in the program as of June 26, 2013, government records show. He had assurances from the Attorney General's Office there would be no more trouble. The government programmed an emergency "panic" number into his cell phone.

"It gave me some peace of mind," he recalls thinking.

On the morning he was taken, Soni was trying to find the panic number. It was too late.

Even in its own assessment, the U.S. State Department notes that "there continue to be serious, ongoing challenges in Mexico, including reports of law enforcement and military involvement in forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, the reported use of torture, impunity and violence and threats against journalists and human rights defenders." In its recommendation to restore funding, the State Department cites several measures taken by the government, but Soni's case suggests they do not go far enough:

-- The U.S. mentions the Mexican government's program for protecting human rights defenders and journalists, known colloquially as "the mechanism." But Soni was enrolled in that program five months before the marines took him anyway.

-- The U.S. cites the autonomous National Human Rights Commission, which investigates and reports on human rights abuses. That body only issued its report on Soni's case in late September, nearly three years later. It concluded there was mistreatment, but not torture, without making any reference to the hours the victims spent in the warehouse. The victims' lawyers are now litigating those omissions.

-- The U.S. points to a new law against torture that passed the Mexican Senate in April and still needs to pass the lower chamber. But even though torture was already illegal in Mexico last year, the human rights commission still received 628 complaints of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and 49 of torture by government officials.

-- The U.S. pays special attention to a more transparent justice system Mexico has implemented in all 32 states and at the federal level. But a study released by two prominent Mexican think tanks in October found that even when injuries caused by abuse were documented, judges in one state did not order investigations or throw out evidence.

The U.S. Embassy offered comment in a statement.

"Mexico has launched an ambitious effort to modernize and reform its law enforcement and justice system," the statement said, noting that the recommendation was based on specific criteria established by Congress. "We are committed to supporting Mexico's own efforts to increase respect for human rights."

Mexico's Interior Department deputy secretary for human rights, Roberto Campa, said eradicating the use of torture is a top human rights priority for the government, and he expects to see a significant increase in sentences against those responsible. He also noted that under Mexico's new justice system, evidence obtained through torture is thrown out.

"For many years there were police forces that considered torture as an investigative method," he said.

At times through tears, Soni and the others recounted what happened to them in the garden of his home, now surrounded by a tall fence and numerous surveillance cameras paid for by the government.

As the marines led Soni away, he asked to pause before a wooden figure of Jesus outside his front door. Steered toward its base, Soni knelt, kissed its feet and prayed: "Lord, only you know where they are taking me. Help me return well."

Then a marine shouted, "Enough already, bastard!" and dragged him to his feet by a handful of his long hair.

Later, as marines drove him to the warehouse, Soni told them he was in the protection program. "I have government protection," Soni said to his captors. "You're making a mistake."

"Yes, you're very influential, you son of a bitch," came the response.

In the warehouse, they were forced to kneel on the concrete floor, he recalls. When their blindfolds were removed, they saw people dressed in black. One took their photographs with a tablet computer and blindfolded them again.

The marines rubbed a gel on their hands and told the men to touch some baggies and metal objects -- apparently setting them up to have their fingerprints on weapons and drugs. When the men resisted, they were punched and kicked.

Biu, who was also taken, recalls the Marines giving them electric shocks, especially when they got to Soni.

"Now we're going to give it to fatty to see if he can take it," one marine said in reference to Soni.

"No more! No more!" Biu heard him scream. "Tell the truth," the marine shouted back. They held the probes near Biu's ear so he could hear the humming current.

Soni says the marines beat him, gave him electrical shocks and did things he does not want published.

"Everything, everything," he says.


There has been no justice for Soni — and many others.

In April, a video circulated that showed soldiers and federal police torturing a young woman. In it, a female military police officer yanks on the woman's hair and pokes a rifle barrel against her head. A female federal police officer also pulls a clear plastic bag over the woman's head and holds it until she nearly passes out.

It led to an unprecedented public apology from Mexico's defense secretary, but the victim remains in prison on weapons charges.

Soni and the others were also held on weapons and drug charges. They spent more than a year in prison in the western state of Nayarit without trial until a judge in March 2015 threw out the case.

From the day of their arrest through the day the judge finally ordered the charges be dropped and signed their release, the men never once saw the judge. Soni hopes that this will change under Mexico's new justice system, where both sides will have to present arguments and evidence in open court. His case is now being handled by a special unit created a year ago to investigate torture.

All the men bear scars from the experience, and some prefer not to speak about the details of their torture. Soni's older nephew, Evanibaldo Larraga Galvan, still has a lump on his neck where a marine grabbed and choked him that morning.

Luis Edgardo Charnichart Ortega, a teacher and childhood friend of Soni's who was sleeping over that night, asks, "Is there even sufficient punishment to pay for all the damage done?"
Charnichart has struggled to work since his release.
Luis Edgardo Charnichart Ortega, a childhood friend of human rights activist Juan Carlos Soni Bulos, talks during an interview at his home in Tanquian de Escobedo, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Charnichart was detained and tortured along with several friends. They were jailed for a year without a trail and eventually the case was thrown out by a judge. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
 "My mind, the psychologists say, they still have it," he recounts. "After they take you, nothing of you can remain. That is their objective, make you disappear, plant death inside you and leave it to consume you until the end of your days."


  1. I don't see Television and Telemundo talking about this stuff. They are afraid too!

    1. 8:33. Maybe they follow moral and ethical standards for both the appropriateness of the audience and audience ratings. Television stations are meant to be educational not necessarily entertaining. Try reading the book: Everything bad is good for you. You will learn how television shows work on an educational and appeasing level. Obviously, they work on an appealing level to attract audiences too.
      The word audience pertains to people who are alive not dead, to people who contribute to life not death, to people who are world wide, or there would be no audience to educate, entertain, appease, appeal, nor communicate to or even control such as keeping audiences at bay so the "Gods" can work. When it comes to informing the public of fiendish and monstrous acts, one must consider the culture and women and children of the country, and consider arrows and thin threads like the arrows and thin threads on screens, the detail. It is difficult work to write the least, and unsparing when competition between television stations are at work to write the most. It takes more than the typical mind. You have the owners, producers, directors, actors and actresses, sponsors that include the government as a television station is a corporation, etc. who all have a piece of the mental and financial pie. And if you think private assistants for owners of television stations get paid to assist with the ideas a lot of times stolen from the public and detail, you could be so wrong. They get fucked up more than the person who watches the typical show. So television and Telemundo afraid to broadcast what you call, this stuff? So wrong.

      -Both part of the audience and Gods and even the arrows and threads, even though the generous Irishman's greedy widowed wife stole the last coin out of the pocket

      Happy Thanksgiving Day!

    2. Are investigations televised?

    3. televisa is CORRUPT, its owners have always been corrupt, the government has the right by law to get time for the common good, to report on the state of the nation, and shit, for free. then franchise is owned by the owners, the mexican people, the azcarragas are only managing, and profiting, but that was not the idea, the TV news are not reported as they should be, to keep a lid on unrest, and the borregos en el corral, because of complicity with the government like on the case of Tlatelolco, televisa made billions of pesos, and now that they want to recover some televidentes, they may run the movies of that matanza and others.

  2. The Cartels are winning the War that Calderon started!

  3. If the US can't hide their enhanced interrogation techniques, how could mexico?
    --Find Salomon Tanuz, mexican government torturer of old

  4. I don't approve of torture. But I can see why alot of these soldiers do it. When violence seems to be the only way that everyone else communicates in. AND talking just seems to either get you killed, or not believed, or arrested, or kidnapped. Although maybe some of these officers are trying to expand their savagery so that they can become someone on a cartel. Or have had family or friends that have been hurt by cartels and resolve to being violent. Or just have issues. Or not trained right. But I think a big part just has to do with the fact that the only way people overall are getting their point across is by being violent. Really sad for the innocent people.

    1. The problem with the government's use of torture is that any resulting criminal conviction is entirely unreliable. Mexico's investigation and conviction rates are laughable as it is, but when you consider the widespread use of torture, even these ridiculous statistics are questionable. Officially, Mexico's government admits that only about 2% of crimes are investigated and only a small fraction of these investigations result i8n convictions. In addition, most sources claim that only 1 in 10 criminal violations are reported to authorities. The public is well aware of the government's use of torture, so it is afraid to even report crimes. In short, torture is barbaric and stupid.

    2. WHAT ?
      They just have issues ?
      " Really sad " ? It is alot more than sad, it is downright sick and a tragedy and a travesty on every concievable level .
      " They " , OBVIOUSLY, percieve human rights activists and jounalists as a
      threat to their corrupt, greedy, hideously violent way of life: organized crime AND government.

    3. Yes yaqui you are absolutely right. I've written here before but things never got posted lol. So I had alot to say but kept things to a minimum because I thought my statement wouldn't get published. You're completely right. And when I said SAD, I meant it in the same terms as you.


    4. When writing my statement, it was just written from the stand point of view of the story that was written and just commenting on just a few of the many reasons why this happens. Never In any way trying to portrait it as an excuse or reason for torture to be done.

    5. Thanks for clarification, DB.
      Yes, it is a very complex topic, I agree.
      In case you missed it before, Administrators publish comments NOT the reporters. It is a very hard job and sometimes there are hundreds to sort thru. Please keep reading and commenting, I am sure there was no personal reason for you not seeing your comments posted.

  5. This is the tip of the iceberg.

  6. Some coments that don't really say anything, do not get posted, and bitching that don't have any redeeming quality, don't get posted either.
    BB now posts some comments of mine that I did not even send in!
    And that is wonderful,
    --thanks to all the turkeys and all the wannabes at BB...


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