Mexico police charged with using death squad tactics on drug suspects

(THE GUARDIAN) — Police in Mexico’s corruption-plagued state of Veracruz set up units that used death squad-style tactics to abduct, kill and dispose of at least 15 people who they suspected of being drug cartel informers and drug runners, according to charges filed by state prosecutors.

The allegations filed against the former top police commanders in Veracruz show all the signs of the human rights abuses of Mexico’s notorious anti-guerrilla counterinsurgency campaigns of the 1960s and

Police in marked patrol cars picked up youths but never recorded their arrests. Instead they turned them over to specialized interrogation and torture squads working at the police academy itself, according to the indictment, and they were later killed and their bodies disposed of.

While individual groups of corrupt cops have been known to turn youths over to drug cartels in several areas of Mexico, the Veracruz state case is notable for the rank of those accused: the former head of state security and the leaders of at least two police divisions have been charged, suggesting that the disappearances were state policy under the former governor Javier Duarte, who is in jail facing corruption charges.

“This is the first time they have charged people in significant numbers and of significant rank and demonstrated that there was an organized, structured governmental apparatus that had an agreed-on, systemic method to carry out a policy of disappearing people,” said Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, a lawyer who specializes in human rights cases.

“The groundbreaking thing is that prosecutors built a case by demonstrating there was a whole governmental structure that was designed to disappear people,” he said.


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