US Private Contractor Leads Torture Training in Mexico

Mayor says torture training will continue and public officials will not be punished.

Exactly one day after George Bush signed the first year of the $1.6 billion Plan Mexico into law--giving Mexican military and police US training, armament, and resources--videos surfaced showing Mexican police undergoing torture training in León, Guanajuato. The torture training is directed by a British man from an unidentified US private security company.

The videos show the English-speaking contractor directing and participating in the torture of members of the Special Tactical Group (GET in its Spanish initials) of the León municipal police force during a 160-hour training over twelve days in April 2006. Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, the Secretary of Public Security in León, says the participants volunteered to be tortured as part of the training.

In one video, the unidentified contractor drags a GET officer through a puddle of his own vomit as punishment for failure to complete a training exercise:

Warning: these videos are graphic and depict torture of human beings

In a second video, GET officers squirt mineral water up the nose of another officer, a torture technique commonly utilized by Mexican police. The man's head is also shoved into a hole which supposedly contains rats and feces:

Leon city Police Chief Carlos Tornero told the AP that the English-speaking man in the videos is a contractor from a private US security firm. Tornero refused to elaborate on the man's identity, details about the US company, and who contracted the company.

The government's response has been to defend the program, attack the media for reporting on the videos, and deny the illegality of torture. León mayor Vicente Guerrero Reynoso said that the training would continue and no public official would be punished for involvement in the torture training. He demanded that the media "be more responsible." Guerrero is a member of President Felipe Calderón's right-wing National Action Party.

Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, Secretary of Public Security for León, said torture training for police is necessary: "It is essential to have a special group that responds to certain conditions. More and more we see the clear involvement, not only in León, but in the whole state, of organized crime, and there is a need to have these groups." Cabeza de Vaca seemed to be most preoccupied with how the videos became public. In response to a reporter's question about why the municipal government offers illegal training that violates human rights, he responded, "Well, while it is not the end I don't know how the video arrived [in the hands of the meda]. The trainer makes the recordings to observe and correct the teachings."

Mexico's national daily La Jornada was quick to point out that torture is in fact prohibited, contrary to the public security chief's assertions: "Torture is a crime in Guanajuato: in accordance with Article 264 of the state Penal Code, the public servant who 'intentionally exercises violence against a person, be it in order to obtain information or constituting an illicit investigation method,' faces a punishment of 2-10 years in prison."

The existence of a training led by a US defense contractor to teach Mexican police
torture tactics in order to combat organized crime and the local government's adamant defense of the program is particularly disturbing considering the US government's recent approval of the $1.6 billion Plan Mexico, also known as the Merida Initiative. Plan Mexico is an aid package specifically designed to support President Felipe Calderón's deadly battle against organized crime. It will fund more US training for Mexican police and military, in addition to providing them with riot gear, spy equipment, and military aircraft. Plan Mexico allows funds for the deployment of up to fifty US defense contractors to Mexico.

This is not the first time US defense contractors have directed torture in foreign countries. During the 2003-2004 Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal in Iraq, US soldiers claimed that defense contractors who ran the prison directed them to torture inmates. Four former Abu Ghraib inmates recently filed lawsuits against CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and New York-based L-3 Communications Corp., formerly Titan Corp., for torturing them.


John Kirby: Organized Criminals Don't Use Leon Torture Methods

From NBC:

"The Mexican police, particularly on the federal side have really been trying to clean up their image and to see them going backwards is disturbing," said John Kirby a former federal prosecutor.

Kirby helped indict the Arrellano Felix Cartel.

He says organized criminals in Mexico, usually don't use these types of torture methods.

"They're going to cut off their fingers and take out their teeth," said Kirby.

That's why Kirby doesn't buy the explanation that this type of training is suppose to help officers survive violent interrogations.

He, like some human rights groups in Mexico believe, this type of training teaches officers how to torture.

And it's very interesting they're using what appears to be a U.S. trainer because that's a whole new thing i've never seen anything quite like that," Kirby said.

The police chief did not reveal the name of the private U.S. security company that's helping train his officers.

Mexico already knew how to torture people

Regarding training torture to foreign countries by “private security companies” and the current undergoing revision of the U.S. Department of Justice “revision “ of its investigative guidelines, I will offer my two cents:

It is easy to identify via the Internet through various federal agencies which U.S. based private companies are being awarded federal award (contracts).

Training foreign police (especially in Mexico), don’t be too naïve, the Federal, State, and Local Mexican police, including the Mexican Armed Forces,  probably know more about how to torture people than our own private security companies which are mainly staffed by former U.S. Military “special forces” and mercenaries.  During the 1980s, working for the U.S. government as a drug agent, we were allowed to participate in drug enforcement operations with our Mexican federal police in Mexico, except, we were not allowed to witness an actual interrogation and torture.  I agree with John Kirby's comments. 

It is my hope that we don’t go back 40 years and assign the FBI’s the mundane task of investigating “anybody” for possible ties to any terrorist organization, because they will be no longer have the manpower to investigate and prosecute other federal crimes that currently are considered "top priority cases for the FBI."  However, if this is the case, our U.S. government will have to dismantle…yes abolish, eliminate the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and restore all of its agencies to their prior to March 3, 2003 (when DHS was created) status with their respective original mission and objectives.  Of course, our next 2008 elected U.S. president may change whatever this Bush administration and Attorney General are doing and start fresh…..I am looking forward to that!  Eight years of witnessing how our great country of us has become nothing but a “bully country,” one country which has been run by one person, which I highly question his mental stability (may be too much alcohol in the brain).  Thus there is some hope in the horizon and some light at the end of the tunnel.  I wanted to add the adjective word “superpower country” in my comment, but I doubt that we are still considered a superpower country.  If we continue with the way our federal government has been doing business, soon, we will become another “undeveloped third world country” and we will be the ones asking for financial aid to other "new superpower countries." 

If any journalist wants to know who is getting private U.S. grants to “help our undeveloped countries” – just surf through the official website of the U.S. Agency for International Development (one of the largest contractor of private security companies) and U.S. Department of the State to obtain the names of all U.S. based private security companies operating in foreign countries.  This is a matter of public record.



Mexico knows how to torture--no doubt

Miguel--I am completely in agreement that Mexico already knows how to torture.  I'm not sure anyone would disagree with that.

The troubling aspects to this story, however, are:

  1. A US private contractor was involved.  Taken in the context of the rampant abuses and impunity in Iraq by private contractors, and the US's increasing reliance on these mercenaries, this is troubling.  Mexico's foray into the dirty private contractor world can only exacerbate the current human rights crisis in Mexico.  But again, it is not a necessary component to Mexican police's ability to torture.
  2. This is official training (not just some "bad apples") that is being defended by the government.  Its legality is being defended, the necessity is being defended...
  3. The United States will be funding these sorts of trainings by these sorts of contractors (up to 50 foreign contractors, and more if the companies can recruit Mexicans) very soon.  If Plan Mexico's 2008 funding is retroactive, the US might very well pay for the training we saw in the video.

WHINSEC / School of the Americas...

is CONGRESS-FUNDED... & the training centre which 'professionalized' American & foreign nationals for

  • torture...
  • rape...
  • terrorism...
  • kidnapping...
  • narcotics cartels...
  • union busting...

whatever you do, Americans, don't take responsibility for the horrors you export & fund that provide a platform for which American corporations might corrode human rights...

how repulsive that Americans would try to dismiss these horrors as 'just something that happens in non-Anglo-Saxon nations'

just remember:  there is no 'we' in corruption

you won't benefit from SUPPORTING TERRORISM , you just make it harder to prevent it when it COMES HOME TO ROOST...


BlueBerry Pick'n
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"...tolerance of intolerance is cowardice..." ~ Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
"We, two, form a Multitude" ~ Ovid.
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

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