Mexican soldiers ordered the execution of a civilian

President López Obrador ordered the Defense Ministry to launch an investigation

Mexican soldiers ordered the execution of a civilian
Human rights activist and experts have documented how soldiers are ordered to violate human rights - Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP
English 24/08/2020 15:33 Íñigo Arredondo Mexico City Actualizada 15:47
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Mexican soldiers shot a truck hundreds of times on July 3 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Security forces believed the vehicle was transporting criminals.

According to authorities, there were no survivors; however, EL UNIVERSAL obtained a video that contradicts the official version of events. In the video, one of the passengers on the back of the truck is still alive after at least 243 gunshots. The man is lying next to several bodies, five soldiers are standing before him. When the soldiers say the man is alive, another soldier orders them to kill him. 

EL UNIVERSAL had access to documents that reveal security forces were patrolling the city when cartel gunmen attacked them. A chase ensued and an army vehicle crashes against the vehicle transporting the gunmen, prompting the criminals to lose control over the vehicle.

The video doesn’t show the passengers shooting against the soldiers. However, a soldier testified he used at least 27 cartridges; this means he shot 70 times. Soldiers killed two passengers when they exited the vehicle. 

Two more army vehicles arrive at the scene and continue shooting against the vehicle. Two more official vehicles join the shooting. Although a soldier asks the others to stop shooting, this only lasts a few seconds and the shooting resumes. 

A few soldiers approach the gunmen who were killed minutes before and who are laying on the pavement and shoot them once again. 

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Once the soldiers realize there is a survivor, someone orders to kill him. The video ends here. 

To grim video lasts over 4 minutes. 

Alleged criminals

Eleven days after the incident, EL UNIVERSAL revealed that three civilians kidnapped by the criminals were present during the clash with security forces. The three victims were a migrant from Chiapas, a university student, and the third victim’s identity is still unknown. Although they were not cartel members, Mexican authorities included them among the 12 dead criminals.
The criminals tied up the victims' hands and feet. Two of them died as the result of gunshots in the chest. The third one was killed by gunshot in the head.  

Moreover, photographs obtained by EL UNIVERSAL show that the three victims only received one gunshot each. In contrast, the alleged cartel gunmen received dozens of gunshots each.
The victims’ families filed a lawsuit against the Sedena a week after the shooting. 

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Human rights violations

In May 2014, the armed forces issued a Manual for the Use of Force. It established that security forces must carry cameras during operations to document incidents and interactions with civilians and to make sure soldiers respect human rights. 

During López Obrador’s administration, Congress approved the National Law for the Use of Force in May 2019. It established that it “is legal to record or film the development of an operation, from the beginning and to the end.”

Considering a series of recommendations issued by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the Mexican armed forces alter evidence when they violate human rights. The CNDH documented these types of irregularities since 2010. 

For Santiago Aguirre, the head of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh), these incidents confirm the risks of militarizing public security. The federal government deepened militarization with the creation of the National Guard and with the presidential decree issued in May 2020, which allows soldiers to carry out security tasks. 

Aguirre said that “by maintaining the military deployment without effective control and tolerating human rights abuses, you could talk about complicity.”

In Mexico, human rights activists and experts have documented how soldiers are ordered to violate human rights. For example, Centro Prodh uncovered a series of irregularities at the 2014 massacre in Tlatlaya.

José Miguel Vivanco, the Human Right Watch’s representative for Latin America, says the incidents registered in Tamaulipas is alarming and “consisting with the behavior patterns we have documented in the armed forces for decades. How many of the 70,000 Mexican who went missing since 2006 died this way? We don’t know. What we do know is that President López Obrador could have ended the policy to deploy the army to patrol the streets. But in contrast, he gave soldiers more responsibilities than ever before.”

President López Obrador reacts

After EL UNIVERSAL revealed Mexican soldiers executed an alleged criminal during a clash between security forces and cartel gunmen back in July, President López Obrador ordered the Defense Ministry (Sedena) to launch an investigation. 

During his daily news conference, López Obrador said his security cabinet analyzed the article published by EL UNIVERSAL and asked General Luis Crescencio Sandoval to investigate the incident.

The President said his administration will not tolerate human rights violations. 


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