State Department Backing US Troops In Mexico

Contracts show School of the Americas, Special Ops Group, Working Inside The Country

At the Mexican government's request, the State Department is supporting US military trainings of the Mexican troops inside Mexico, according to federal procurement data and a statement released by the agency.

Procurement data from the Federal Procurement Data System shows that in September the US Embassy in Mexico City paid Sheraton Hotels more than $15,000 for an event featuring the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas), a Department of Defense school that specializes in training students from Latin America and has a notorious history of contributing to human rights abuses abroad.

The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), a military school that teaches special operations tactics, is also listed as being involved. The State Department has not disclosed which Sheraton hotels were used, but the procurement data states the contract work was performed in Mexico. Sheraton lists hotel locations in the historic center of Mexico City, the city's wealthy suburb of Santa Fe, the beach resort city of Cancún, and city of Monterrey.

When asked about the procurement data, embassy spokesman Alexander Featherstone first stated that the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), a military unit created in 2002 for homeland defense missions, is involved in training the Mexican military with help from the State Department.

“At the request of the Mexican government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, USNORTHCOM conducts information exchanges and training across a number of broad areas and disciplines,” Featherstone said. “These trainings take place both in Mexico and the U.S.”

“These training opportunities and exchanges have helped the militaries of Mexico and the United States to build a relationship based on trust, confidence, mutual benefit and mutual respect for sovereignty,” Featherstone added.

Regarding the hotel payments, Featherstone then said that the Department of Defense, through the Office of Defense Coordination at the U.S. Embassy, uses meeting rooms for “seminars, conferences, and meeting venues,” including for events that focus on “counternarcotics efforts.”

When asked if the funds used by the embassy were part of the Mérida Initiative, a 2008 security pact in which the United States provides training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and the armed forces to wage the drug war, Featherstone stated that they were not.

“While this military training is not funded with Merida Initiative funds, the expenditure is in the spirit of the Merida Initiative objectives and fully supports the U.S. whole-of-government effort to work closely with Mexico,” Featherstone said.

The School of Americas Mobile Training Teams and the Special Forces

The State Department has not answered questions seeking to know what exactly WHINSEC and JSOU were doing inside Mexico last month, and the Department of Defense referred inquiries to the Mexico City embassy. WHINSEC is based at the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia and the JSOU is in Hurlburt Field, Florida.

School of America's Watch, a nonprofit organization that has been monitoring WHINSEC before it changed its name in 2001, found that the school offers Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), which have been deployed to other countries in Latin America. According to a 2004 course list obtained by the nonprofit, the MTTs taught classes on issues like “military instruments of power” and “joint operations.”

At the beginning of the year, WHINSEC announced that it had deployed these teams to El Salvador, Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic for military trainings.

In the last 60 years, WHINSEC has gained a dark reputation as a place where human rights abuses are born. SOA Watch has documented numerous cases where “thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,' massacred, and forced into refugee” by by graduates of the school.

The JSOU teaches special forces training. A report published by the school in March, titled “U.S. Military Engagement with Mexico,” states that “Despite little public notice, U.S.-Mexican military relations have changed fundamentally in recent years.” While discussing the threat of “narcoguer­rillas” in Mexico, the document says “Mexican Special Operations Forces (SOF) in particular—as well as selected law enforcement components—have received substantial U.S. military support.”

Other sources have previously told Narco News that a special operations task force under the command of the Pentagon is operating inside Mexico and taking “direct action” against narco-trafficking organizations.

“The level of communication and cooperation between U.S. and Mexican armed forces has increased dramatically over the past two years and represents an historic high,” Featherstone said.

More Human Rights Complaints in Mexico

In Mexico, the military has been plagued with complaints of human rights abuses and corruption with drug traffickers. There have been more human rights complaints against the military during Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s administration than ever before. Of the 4,035 complaints that have been reported since 2006, 56 members of the military have been disciplined.

In September, the State Department announced it was withholding $26 million in Merida Initiative funds due to concerns over abuses committed by the Mexican military. That same month, four soldiers were arrested in the northern state of Nuevo León after they shot and killed two civilians who they claimed failed to stop at a check point on the highway.

The Zetas, a relatively new drug trafficking group of ex-soldiers from the Mexican special forces, routinely make headlines in Mexico for clashes with the federal government and military. Since Calderón used the military to crack down on drug trafficking groups, violence has only increased in the country, with 28,000 people killed due to drug violence since 2007.

The questions remain as to what exactly the US military and State Department are training Mexican soldiers and special forces to do.

Comments

Cuba?

Is this like Cuba in the late 1950s?

Mexican/American training

The article fails to mention that the Zetas are the product of specialized traing which they received at Fort Benning. Does anyone really believe that a continuation and acceleration of special ops training for poorly paid Mexican soldiers is not going to produce another crop of rogue, well trained, very scary, narco-guerilleros? I mean really. South Florida is full of SOA alumni who are running from their genocidal pasts. Do we really need to spend our tax dollars to turn out more? Say it isn't so.

SOA and the Zetas

First of all, thanks for your comment. As for your assertion that members of the Zetas were trained at Fort Benning, while I've seen that reported as fact in some Mexican and US newspapers, I still haven't been able to find any evidence actually proving it.

Update: I also think it's fair to point out that while sources have told Narco News that the Zetas have received "training from U.S. agencies, including from the DEA, FBI and U.S. military," I'm just reluctant to report it as fact that it was SOA, the institution itself, training them. Although that would be quite a story. And with SOA refusing public records requests from SOA Watch to disclose their student lists, it's difficult to know for sure.

Zetas, not to mention Kaibiles

The very stellar "Presente", newsletter of School of the Americas (Assassins) Watch is where i first learned about the Zetas before they became so well known. The current Fall 2010 issue also includes this small piece:

"Mexico

Massacre Linked to School of the Americas

On August 26, the Arizona Daily Star reported on what might be the biggest massacre thus far in the drug war in Mexico. The Zetas Cartel killed 72 migrants, whose bodies were found in a farm in the state of Temaulipas.  The Zetas started out as a group of 31 renegade soldiers who were part of the Special Air Mobile Force Group, an elite division of the Mexican Army.  According to the Mexican Secretary of Defense, graduates of the School of the Americas comprise over a third of the original Zetas."

They were indeed special forces of the Mexican Army trained at the SOA. I remember hearing on the radio in the middle of the night a piece about mutinous Mexican army troops.  Prematurely i rejoiced hoping such troops globally would mutiny as well.  Turned out these particular mutineers were Los Zetas, who were hired by the drug cartels for a tidy sum eventually taking on power of their own, that were instrumental in jacking up the level of violence carried out by these deadly heinous cartels. 

 I drove the mother of one of the murdered young women of Ciudad Juarez on a speaking tour in 2004.  It was also believed by some of the mothers of the hundreds of tortured, murdered and mutilated young women that many of those crimes were carried out by Los Zetas.

Then there are the Kaibiles, trained by US Special Forces Marines in Guatemala who also had mutinies.  They also have  been involved in working for the cartels and working as well with Los Zetas including training men in using their particularly gruesome skills.  Kaibiles were notorious for hacking open the bellies of pregnant women in Guatemala and then hacking the fetuses.  This also was done during the massacre at Acteal, Chiapas in 1997, indicating the presence of Kaibiles coming into Chiapas from Guatemala according to one of the communiques from the Zapatistas shortly following the massacres of 45 Mayans Dec. 22, l997.  According to one article, there has been no archaeological precedent for such crimes until the Kaibiles.

The UN hired Kaibiles as so called Peacekeepers in the Congo.  The escalation of mutilated rapes has happened on an unheard of scale in eastern Congo and continues to this day into the hundreds of thousands over the past few years.

Why does the UN hire known mercenaries and death squads?

You really should contact SOA Watch to verify the information about Los Zetas.  It is not as widely known as it should be.  In my humble opinion, the US is foremost promoter of torturous rapes, mutilations and murders on earth.  Too much info is available  to believe otherwise.  The crimes of Sand Creek live on.....

google "Kaibiles" for some really disgusting documentation of their induction as UN Peacekeepers in the Congo, etc.

But again...

It's one thing to have a person claim this, but it's another to prove it. If you can find me some evidence that this is the case--that actual members the Zetas were trained as SOA, I'd be happy to investigate it (and find out who, when, where, and in what). But even as SOA Watch was consulted on this article for their research on the school, I have the responsibility to maintain a strict adherence to facts, and again, I just don't see the proof at this point.

Rape in the Eastern Congo

Rape in the Eastern Congo (specifically Bunia and Ituri) is committed on a large scale by Congolese rebels and the Congolese military, not by UN peacekeepers. To blame it on the Kabiles is absurd.

Furthermore, much of the Congo is covered in jungle, the kind of terrain that the Kabiles are trained to fight in. That makes them of value to the UN mission.

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Erin Rosa is a writer from Denver, Colorado based in the Western Hemisphere.