Details of Mexico's Dirty Wars From 1960s to 1980s Released

By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BOGOTA, Colombia, Nov. 21 -- Mexican authorities have quietly released an 859-page report that describes how three Mexican governments killed, tortured and disappeared dissidents and political opponents from the late 1960s until 1982.

The release of the "Historical Report to the Mexican Society" marks the first time that Mexico has officially accepted responsibility for waging a dirty war against leftist guerrillas, university students and activists. It includes declassified government records, photographs and details about individuals who were killed under the rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the authoritarian party that ruled the country for 71 years before being ousted in 2000.

"The authoritarianism with which the Mexican state subjected dissidents led to spiraling violence that led it to commit crimes against humanity, in crime after crime," the report says.

Special commissions designed to dig up the truth about Latin America's dirty wars have detailed state terror in better-known conflicts such as those in Chile and Argentina, where military regimes ruled through murder and intimidation during the 1970s and '80s. But the report in Mexico offers chilling detail about how the state, with orders from up high, carried out a brutal offensive that included using electrical shocks, rounding up villagers and burning down villages in regions that authorities considered dangerously subversive.

"This was state policy," said Jose Luis Contreras, spokesman for Special Prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, whose office conducted the investigation. "The hypothesis is that they knew about the abuses, the executions and the disappearances."

The report, released by the attorney general's office late Friday at the start of a three-day holiday, comes five years after President Vicente Fox's government appointed Carrillo to investigate political crimes under the PRI. On Tuesday, the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University, posted the document on its Web site.

An early version of the report was leaked in February to the Mexican press, well-known intellectuals and the archive, against the wishes of Fox and Carrillo, who felt it was biased against the military and left out important facts. Under pressure, the government issued the much-awaited final draft.

The report includes the names of 645 people who were disappeared by the state security apparatus, along with the circumstances under which some of them vanished. It also includes the names of 99 people who were victims of extrajudicial executions and more than 2,141 cases of torture.

"They list the names of the victims of forced disappearances that they have been able to definitely confirm with the government's own records," said Kate Doyle, director of the Mexico project of the National Security Archive. "The impact of that is powerful -- it's dozens and dozens of pages of the names of people picked up by the police and tortured and disappeared."

Still, the report has led to little in the way of concrete results. A handful of former government officials have been jailed but later released.

Carrillo's office said 500 cases are open. But no one is currently facing charges, said Human Rights Watch, the New York-based group, and no one has been tried and convicted.

"They haven't found one disappeared person. They haven't punished a single person responsible," said Rosario Ibarra, a senator whose son, Jesús Piedra Ibarra, disappeared in 1975. "For us, the report is useless."

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