Mexico News and Analysis: July 13-26, 2009

1. Army dismisses human rights complaints
2. Military leaders criticize civil law enforcement
3. Poverty increases


1. Army dismisses human rights complaints
On Thursday, the Secretary of Defense accused the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government agency, of discrediting the army in its fight against drug cartels.  Jaime Lopez, the Director General for Human Rights in the Secretary of Defense, claimed criminals are lodging human rights complaints to discredit the work of army troops and are using investigations by the CNDH to benefit criminals during legal proceedings.  The CNDH, generally known as a timid organization that follows the government line on human rights abuses, rejected the criticism on Friday.  Jose Luis Soberanes, the current president of the CNDH, hails from a military family and is generally seen as sympathetic to the army.  The current dispute arises in the context of efforts by the Calderon administration to extend the military’s exemption from prosecution in civil courts and to enhance the military’s power.  The vast majority of human rights cases brought against troops are heard in military tribunals, despite a ruling by the Organization of American States that cases should be tried in civil courts.  Complaints of human rights abuses by troops have increased dramatically under President Felipe Calderon, who sent 45,000 troops into more than a dozen states to battle drug cartels.  Troops generally have no training in policing and have been accused in hundreds of cases of warrantless home invasions, rape, torture and murder.


2. Military leaders criticize civil law enforcement
The Secretaries of Defense (Sedean) and the Navy (Semar) set conditions last week for their participation in combating organized crime, refusing to carry out joint operations with the Secretary of Public Security (SSP) for fear that advance information would leak from the SSP to drug cartels.  Defense leaders called for a purge of the SSP, implying removal of Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, who is widely suspected of cartel links.  Meanwhile, the Federal Attorney General denied reports on Friday that the United States had issued an arrest warrant against Garcia Luna. 

La Familia, one of Mexico’s three major drug cartels, has accused the SSP of favoritism in its conduct in the drug war.  La Famlia waged a series of highly public attacks last week against federal police in the state of Michoacan.  La Tuta, one of the leaders of La Familia, appeared on a state-wide television call-in program a few days later claiming his battle was with federal police aligned with the Zetas, a paramilitary group that acts as enforcer for the Gulf Cartel, and not the people of Mexico.  La Tuta called for negotiations between La Familia and the federal government.  The Calderon administration publicly rejected the proposal, though La Familia has already named its principle negotiator – Julio Godoy, half brother of Michoacan’s PRD Governor Leonel Godoy.  An arrest warrant was issued for Julio this week, though the Federal Electoral Institute awarded him a seat in the House of Deputies – and the immunity this implies - after he won a majority in recent elections.

In related news, the Calderon administration claimed, “approximately ninety percent of the total deaths (more than 11,000 so far under Calderon) have been members of delinquent gangs, and the other ten percent have been security forces.”  The violence, “is a reaction against the forces of order, but citizens who are not involved in drug trafficking should have the security that they are not the object of violent actions carried out by delinquent gangs.”


3. Poverty increases
Nearly 51 million Mexicans, almost half the population, live in poverty, an increase from 46 million at the beginning of the Calderon administration, according to the Secretary of Social Development.  From 1992 to 2006, poverty levels declined from 53.1% to 42.6%, but the recent economic crisis raised the percentage to 47.4 in 2008.  The crisis has been particularly devastating on rural areas where 61% of the population lives in poverty.