US: Mexico Mass Graves Raise "Alarming Questions" about Government "Complicity" in September 2014 Cartel Killings
State Department Quietly Suspended Aid to Army Unit Responsible for June 2014 Tlatlaya Massacre
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 515
Edited by Michael Evans
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Michael Evans - 202/994-7029 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC, May 12, 2015 - A U.S. military "Human Rights Working Group" said that mass graves not related to the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico--but nevertheless found during the investigation of that case--raised "alarming questions" about the "level of government complicity" in Mexican cartel killings. The student victims from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa were allegedly abducted by local police forces and turned over to members of a local drug gang to be executed. All but one of the students--whose remains were reportedly identified by an Austrian forensic group--are still missing seven months later.
The October 2014 report from U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is one of several declassified records obtained by the nongovernmental National Security Archive and highlighted in a new report for The Intercept by former Archive staffer Jesse Franzblau and Cora Currier. The newly-declassified records, some posted here for the first time, shed light on how the U.S. has perceived and responded to allegations of serious human rights abuses committed by U.S.-funded security forces in Mexico, which have become disturbingly common in recent years.
"None of the 28 bodies identified thus far are the remains of the students," reads a summary of the Working Group meeting circulated to senior officers at NORTHCOM on October 14, 2014, "raising alarming questions about the widespread nature of cartel violence in the region and the level of government complicity." NORTHCOM, based in Colorado, is the regional military command in charge of Defense Department programs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Another item on the Working Group's agenda was the June 2014 slaying of 22 suspected drug gang members at Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, by the Mexican Army's 102nd Battalion. Four months later, and shortly after the arrests of a Mexican Army officer and seven soldiers from the 102nd for the killings and subsequent cover up, the Working Group "assesse[d] that as more facts come to light there is greater acceptance that the military was involved in wrongdoing," raising serious questions about the ability of the U.S. to provide aid to military forces in the region.
"If [the military zone commander is] implicated in a gross human rights violation," the Working Group reported, "the entire military zone and 10,000 personnel will be ineligible for U.S. security cooperation assistance."
Another NORTHCOM document obtained by the Archive and highlighted in the report is the first public confirmation that the U.S. State Department last year did quietly suspend assistance to the 102nd Battalion following Tlatlaya, pending the outcome of official investigations.
The unprecedented level of U.S. influence on Mexico's armed forces in recent years came alongside an extraordinary increase in drug war abuses and in human rights violations connected to state and local security forces. The violence that has engulfed Mexico since then has produced a flurry of reports from U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officers expressing concern that America's drug war partners in the Mexican security forces were working hand-in-glove with cartel terrorists.
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