Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Rapists Mexico Left Behind

Mexico is one of my favorite travel destinations. Beautiful country, terrifically nice people and a rich culture. But Mexico has some really difficult questions to answer, a body of ultra-violent cartels driven by the incredible demand for drugs in the United States and the porous border that allows a vast array of legally-obtained, U.S.-sourced assault weapons and lesser guns to find their way into an ostensibly gun-controlled nation. The level of corruption, a police force that has on many occasions been charged with bribery, murder-for-hire, protecting the cartels and killing and raping those who complain, is simply a matter of public record. Entire local police departments have been replaced by federales from Mexico City… even as those self-same federales have less than an unblemished record.
The unsolved murder/disappearance of 43 students (from Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the fall of 2014) – an investigation that many assert is being hindered by Mexico’s leadership – has been the biggest recent outrage. Beyond the machete beheadings, gun-killings and explosive violence of battling cartels, executions of journalists and government officials pledging to clean up the corruption, there is a new allegation tarnishing Mexico’s already tarnished image, one that could conceivably bring down Mexico’s president:
“International human rights officials are demanding an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during protests a decade ago — an inquiry that would take aim at PresidentEnrique Peña Nieto, who was the governor in charge at the time of the attacks.
“The demand is part of a multiyear examination by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into abuses during a 2006 crackdown ordered by Mr. Peña Nieto on San Salvador Atenco, a town in Mexico State where demonstrators had taken over the central square. During the operations, which left two dead, more than 40 women were violently detained by the police, packed onto buses and sent to jail several hours away.
“The case was brought by 11 women to the international commission, which found that the police tortured them sexually. The women — a mix of merchants, students and activists — were raped, beaten, penetrated with metal objects, robbed and humiliated, made to sing aloud to entertain the police. One was forced to perform oral sex on multiple officers. After the women were imprisoned, days passed before they were given proper medical examinations, the commission found.” New York Times, September 22nd.
The numbers of dead and injured from what has effectively become a drug-driven civil war in Mexico are staggering. “Since 2006, more than 150,000 people have been killed and an additional 27,000 have vanished, disappeared without a trace. The violence comes at the hands of the cartels, who wield enormous influence in the country, and the government’s deadly response to it
The case of Atenco, however, bears few of the complexities that accompany violence between armed groups. And yet justice in even the most basic form has been elusive… Nearly two dozen individuals charged with abuse of authority have been acquitted at trial or on appeal, including an officer charged with forcing one of the victims to perform oral sex on him.
“‘That has been the hardest, most enraging part of this entire process,’ said [one] of the women, Ana María Velasco Rodríguez, 43. ‘I was full of anger, thinking nothing happens, even when you find the guilty party, the very person who attacked you, they walk away free.’
“In recent years, with the Inter-American Commission looking into the case, the government has renewed its efforts to pursue those involved. But officials have pursued low-level officers, either failing or refusing to investigate those higher up the chain of command. The most senior individual charged to date is the police commander who oversaw the use of the buses — where the abuse occurred — to transport the women to prison, though a judge recently found insufficient evidence to order his arrest.
“While the government argues that it has gone after those responsible, after years of stagnation, the commission found its efforts both late and inadequate. Thirty-four low-level officers were on trial as of August, wending their way through a slow and unpredictable court process that has failed to appease the victims.” NY Times. Peña Nieto has not been named specifically in this litany of excuses or accusations, but many suggest that without his nod, this investigation would have moved much more rapidly to a proper conclusion… and the real, higher-up culprits would have been nailed.
Before we get too sanctimonious about American versus Mexican justice, even overlooking that it is the US demand for drugs that fuels this corrupting violence, remember that we too prefer jailing scapegoats and lower-down operatives and letting the big boys go free. Remember all those nasty practices from our biggest financial institutions that fomented the Great Recession? Not one single senior manager of these miscreant financial institutions has been convicted in any American court of pretty obvious fraud and other criminal activity related to their egregious behavior. We truly need to acknowledge our part in all this and our equal proclivity to allow the top of the evil-food-chain to go free.
I’m Peter Dekom, and the evil that men do seems to live on as strongly as it has ever has; but no amount of sloganeering or a wall creating a false sense of security will have the slightest impact in fixing the real problem.

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