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HomeNewsMexico Metropolis Declared Police Abuse Over. Reviews of Misconduct Saved Rising.

Mexico Metropolis Declared Police Abuse Over. Reviews of Misconduct Saved Rising.


MEXICO CITY — Juan Carlos García Cortés was operating errands in Mexico Metropolis on his moped when a taxi reduce him off and two males jumped out. They shoved him within the again, threw a jacket over his head and started beating him.

Mr. García’s abductors weren’t street-level criminals — they had been members of Mexico Metropolis’s newly created elite police unit tasked with combating kidnapping and extortion, the very crimes inflicted on Mr. García.

After beating Mr. García, the officers threatened to cost him with murder if he didn’t pay them 50,000 pesos, about $2,500 {dollars}, in response to depositions from the García household and a proper grievance filed with the legal professional basic’s workplace. It was greater than he earned in eight months at a taco stand the place he labored.

Mexico has lengthy had main issues with corruption inside its police forces. Nevertheless, Mexico Metropolis’s bold mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, a high contender to succeed the nation’s president, made stamping out official corruption in her personal power a precedence.

In June 2020, simply over a yr and a half after taking workplace, she declared victory: “All of these practices involving torture, illegality, et cetera, have been completely eradicated,” Ms. Sheinbaum mentioned at a information convention.

But Mr. García’s ordeal occurred in 2021.

The episode is amongst 1000’s of misconduct claims reported by Mexico Metropolis residents towards the capital’s essential police power lately, regardless of the mayor’s declaration. Even senior police officers say corruption hasn’t been eradicated from the power of greater than 81,000 officers. The numbers bear that out.

Interviews with present and former cops, authorities data and paperwork reviewed by The New York Occasions involving unlawful arrests and abductions present that Ms. Sheinbaum’s police power has, in some methods, gotten worse since she took workplace.

As an alternative of curbing bodily abuse and false arrests, police and metropolis officers have turned a blind eye, present and former police officers say — usually leaving victims, lots of them poor, with little recourse after enduring violent human rights abuses.

Within the practically 4 years since Ms. Sheinbaum took workplace, the town’s human rights fee has obtained greater than 5,000 stories towards the police labeled as acts of bodily hurt and violations of non-public liberty — incidents that embrace unlawful arrests, torture and loss of life threats.

There have been greater than 1,900 such stories simply in 2021, the very best quantity in a single yr since 2004, when the fee first began publicly categorizing the forms of claims made towards authorities workers.

Allegations of torture, in response to the fee, embrace electrical shocks, strangulation, simulated executions and sexual assault. Within the first six months of 2022, the fee fielded extra stories in contrast with the identical interval final yr.

The fee — led by an official elected by Mexico Metropolis’s Congress — critiques each report after which refers it to the related division for investigation. A police spokeswoman advised The Occasions that since 2019, 477 officers have been dismissed for not upholding the power’s ideas or for failing a background examine.

The rise in stories of misconduct could possibly be an indication that residents have extra methods to report abuse than they did below the earlier mayoral administration, mentioned Pablo Vázquez Camacho, a deputy secretary of the town’s essential police power.

“There’s higher alternative to file stories by residents,” he mentioned. “It’s seemingly that extra investigations are being opened as a result of we’re investigating extra.”

Mr. Vázquez, nonetheless, disagreed with Ms. Sheinbaum’s view that police corruption, together with extortion of residents, had ended. “It’s not very lifelike to say that it has been eradicated utterly,” he mentioned. “However we’re within the means of eradicating it.”

The spike in claims of police abuse may be tied to broader investigative and intelligence powers given to officers, beginning in 2019, to combat crime, in response to Miguel Garza, director of the Institute for Safety and Democracy, a Mexican analysis institute.

The primary power’s tasks had been expanded past patrolling streets to investigating crimes starting from drug trafficking to homicides, and included the creation of a job power in 2019 targeted on combating extortion and kidnapping.

“There’s stress from commanders to ship outcomes,” mentioned Mr. Garza, a former Mexico Metropolis police commander. “What they’re in search of is to make sure individuals are incarcerated and, to try this, at occasions they could body an individual with medication.”

The police abuses closely goal low-income residents who usually can’t afford authorized illustration, in response to present and former cops.

“They aim these weak teams as a result of they imagine they don’t have the information or the training to defend their rights,” mentioned a former Mexico Metropolis police officer, Jaime Ramón Bernal García, who was accused of disobeying an order and fired in 2014. He mentioned his dismissal got here after he had demanded higher labor situations for cops. He later based a nonprofit that promotes labor rights for legislation enforcement.

Nonetheless, Ms. Sheinbaum’s workplace reaffirmed the mayor’s achievements.

“All practices of torture and unlawful arrests have stopped occurring,” the mayor’s workplace advised The Occasions in an announcement in March. Final month, the workplace advised The Occasions that the power had additionally bolstered its human rights coaching this yr to deal with conduct cited in the most typical circumstances of police misconduct.

“We would like residents to know that we’ll not allow nor tolerate these actions,” Ms. Sheinbaum’s workplace mentioned.

The mayor’s assertion that her administration has reformed Mexico Metropolis’s police displays a broader nationwide push to rework the nation’s safety forces below Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with the intention to root out authorities corruption.

Shortly after taking workplace in late 2018, Mr. López Obrador, dissolved the federal police and created a brand new power, the Nationwide Guard, that he mentioned could be “incorruptible.” (Human rights teams have accused the Nationwide Guard of the identical violent practices carried out by the Federal Police.)

Ms. Sheinbaum is matching Mr. López Obrador’s enthusiasm and empowering the Nationwide Guard on a neighborhood scale, as “a part of a technique to bolster safety,” she has mentioned. Presently, extra than 12,000 Nationwide Guard troops patrol Mexico Metropolis.

But the deep rot inside Mexico Metropolis’s essential police power, the day-to-day enforcement arm within the capital, persists.

A presidential election in 2024 has maybe worsened the misconduct. The police are working to enhance safety and crack down on crime to bolster arrest statistics forward of Ms. Sheinbaum’s anticipated presidential run, mentioned analysts and several other cops. In some circumstances, harmless individuals have been arrested and compelled to admit to unsolved crimes, even when the circumstances are ultimately thrown out in courtroom.

The misconduct in Mr. Garcia’s case just isn’t an exception.

In spring 2021, cops detained a person named Omar, 25, demanding that he confess to killing a girl in his neighborhood, in response to Omar’s testimony to the prosecutor, which was offered to The Occasions by his lawyer. The lawyer requested that Omar’s final identify not be used for worry of reprisal from the police.

When Omar refused, the officers took a plastic bag and lined his head, practically suffocating him, in response to Omar’s testimony. They then pressured him to admit to the homicide in a recorded video, he mentioned.

A Mexico Metropolis decide threw out the case, citing proof of torture.

Final yr, the town’s human rights fee printed a scathing report citing “a collection of patterns” of abuses, together with torture and arbitrary arrests, by the town police power and a smaller power below the Mexico Metropolis legal professional basic’s workplace.

The report highlighted circumstances of officers planting medication on detainees, extorting residents for money whereas threatening to vanish them and breaking into properties with out arrest warrants and beating residents.

The fee advisable that the Mexico Metropolis police chief, Omar García Harfuch, herald specialists to assist determine how the power was failing nationwide and worldwide arrest requirements. It additionally known as for the power to adjust to a nationwide arrest register meant to restrict torture and compelled disappearances by the hands of cops.

The director of the police power’s human rights division mentioned all of the suggestions put ahead by the fee had been within the means of being carried out — although the pandemic has created some delays.

Within the case of Mr. García, the taco stand employee, his assailants drove him to the Mexico Metropolis legal professional basic’s workplace after abducting him and parked outdoors, in response to CCTV footage reviewed by The Occasions.

Then somebody known as his spouse, Maria Karina Chia Pérez, demanding money for his launch and the possession paperwork for Mr. García’s moped, in response to the García household.

Ms. Chia known as everybody she knew however might solely give you half the cash.

When she couldn’t ship the bribe, the boys became uniforms after which marched Mr. García into the legal professional basic headquarters, in response to the surveillance footage.

Mr. García was charged with drug trafficking. The legal professional basic’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The police report mentioned officers discovered Mr. García with a bag stuffed with cocaine and marijuana on the very time the surveillance footage confirmed he was being held within the taxi in entrance of the legal professional basic’s workplace.

After seven months in jail, Mr. Garcia pleaded responsible in change for his conditional launch. His son was born whereas he was imprisoned.

“It felt horrible, ” Mr. García mentioned of pleading responsible. “However alternatively I felt higher as a result of I used to be going to have my freedom and will see my son.”

Now, Mr. García is attempting to pursue legal prices towards the officers.

“I simply need justice to be performed,” Mr. García mentioned.




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