Saturday, November 29, 2008

US Police Train Mexican Police to Torture

A Mexican police trainer fired for hitting a female cadet was been hired by another police force in Guanajuato

La Jornada has revealed that some of the trainers responsible for the torture classes given to Leon, Guanajuato, Special Tactics police are San Diego, California, police officers from that city's SWAT team. Other trainers came from the private Mexican company Sniper, according to the Mexican government. The government released the names of the following trainers: Carlos Guillermo Martinez Acuña, Gerardo Ramon Arrechea de la Vega (the Cuban-Mexican trainer whom Narco News revealed is a high-ranking member of the anti-Castro Cuban paramilitary organization Comandos F4), Francisco Javier Jaramillo Barrios, Alfredo Torres Solano, and Martin Gonzalez Cabrera. La Jornada reports that the government did not disclose the trainers' nationalities nor their respective employers.

The torture training was discovered when videos from the classes were leaked to Leon's daily newspaper El Heraldo in June of this year. Three videos surfaced:

  • The first video portrayed an English-speaking trainer of British origins making a trainee roll through his own vomit as punishment for not completing an exercise. The government has not disclosed this trainer's name, nor the company for whom he works. Narco News identified him as Andrew "Orlando" Wilson of the US/British company Risks Incorporated. Videos of the Leon training (minus the torture segments) are posted on Risk Incorporated's website.
  • The second video shows police being trained in torture tactics that are historically popular amongst Mexican police officers: the tehuacanazo and the pocito. The tehuacanazo involves squirting mineral water up the victim's nose, which produces a burning sensation. In the pocito, the victim's head is inserted in a hole filled with feces. A participant in the leaked video stated that the hole also contained rats. During the training, a police officer whom the government says was a volunteer was subjected to both torture tactics at the same time.
  • While the first two videos were shot during the spring, the third video was shot in December 2007 or January 2008. It shows police trainer Roberto Ramírez Govea, who at the time was employed with the Leon Public Security Department, hitting a female cadet in the head during target practice. El Correo de Guanajuato reports that Ramirez was fired for this offense, but less than 15 days later was hired for the same position in the San Francisco del Rincon Public Security Department. San Fransisco del Rincon is also located in Guanajuato.

Together, the torture videos sparked international outrage. Leon's municipal government, which contracted the training, defended the courses, saying that they were necessary to prepare the police to combat organized crime. La Jornada reports that each course cost MX$82,000 (USD$6,205).

The torture videos surfaced the same day President George W. Bush signed Plan Mexico into law. Plan Mexico, which is designed to combat organized crime, will provide more training and equipment for Mexican police and soldiers, utilizing US police officers, federal agents, and military trainers. The US government thus far has not commented on the Leon torture trainings or made any promises that the similar training programs will not continue with US taxpayer money under Plan Mexico.

Comic by Magu for La Jornada. Translation: "Every day more and more Mexicans know that they're protected by the police." "Yeah, narcos, kidnappers..."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Witness in Brad Will case talks about Oaxaca Uprising

Gustavo Vilchis, a witness to Brad Will's murder and the man who gave him mouth-to-mouth on the way to hospital, remembers the protests, the organizing, and the repression; discusses why the government went after the witnesses; and talks about Plan Mexico and how it will affect resistance in Mexico. The government issued an arrest warrant for Vilchis for Brad Will's murder.

Audio on Chicago Public Radio:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"I Didn't Kill Brad Will": An Interview with Juan Manuel Martinez

The man who supposedly murdered the US videographer agrees that he participated in the APPO protests, but he maintains that he never met the journalist.

by Diego Enrique Osorno, Mileno
translation by Kristin Bricker

"I didn't kill Brad Will," says Juan Manuel Martinez, the young man the Federal Attorney General's Office officially accused three weeks ago of allegedly murdering the US Indymedia videographer.

"It doesn't matter how much they pressure me; I'll never agree to the lie that they want me to agree to. I never even had the privilege of meeting him (Brad) and I wasn't even in the place where they killed him," he reiterates from the Santa Maria Ixcotel Penitentiary in Oaxaca where he awaits the final evaluation of his case by Rosa Iliana Noriega, 5th district judge.

"God willing, the judge won't be biased, as often happens in Oaxaca, because the government orders them to be," stressed Martinez.

"They're telling all lies. There are a number of people who saw me that day in another place; I was not in the street where what happened happened. There isn't even one video or photo of me in which I am there when they shot at Brad. I don't know how they can get away with this injustice if it's very clear that it's all lies. Like my lawyer says, I am the scapegoat."

Before being imprisoned, Juan Manuel worked in the Santa Lucia del Camino city council as an assistant in a regent's office. "In the District Attorney's office they read me the statements and the only person who is accusing me is the mayor's cousin--the same mayor who is accused of sending gunmen to shoot that day," he states.

"Furthermore, the man that is accusing me (Alfredo Feria) says that he knew I was the killer because that's what a voice said--that's how it's written in his statement--that a voice told him that I was the assassin!"

The alleged murderer of Brad was born in Santa Lucia del Camino, a suburb of Oaxaca, where he lived with his wife and three children in a 2 x 4 meter room in his mother's house.

Why do you think they detained you?
The United States government wanted them to detain someone for Brad's death and the Mexican government wants to protect the real assassins, but I don't know why they're using me as a scapegoat. It's probably because I don't belong to an organization and I don't know anybody; they thought that no one was going to stick up for me, but, thank God, many human rights organizations are doing just that."

You aren't a member of the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca [CIPO in its Spanish initials]?
When they detained me, the agents told me: "you are a CIPO jerk," but I'm not even a member of that organization. I was an APPO supporter, like many people in Oaxaca, because of the poverty we live in and the injustice.

Did you participate in the protests?
Yes, but I'm not the person they say I am; I wasn't near where the homicide was committed.

Where were you that day?
I sell comforters and bedspreads...I'm also a baker. You know what it's like in Oaxaca, you've got to look for work everywhere. I had gone out that day to sell comforters in Santa Lucia del Camino, because I'm from there--and that's apparently scandalous--but I wasn't there when they shot Brad.

Everything they're saying in the supposed investigation they're doing is all lies. They say that I used a number of vehicles when I don't even have a bicycle; they say I have a gold Golf, a black Golf, and other vehicles; they say that I'm a person that has money, but anyone who investigates will realize that I have three children and a wife and we're living in a really small room that they're loaning to us.

What other accusations have they made during your hearings in the District Attorney's office?
They say I have straight hair, but my hair is wavy, and things like that that don't make sense, because the person that's accusing me is a relative of the man that's being accused of having killed Brad.

Did you know Brad Will?
It would have been an honor to meet him, but I didn't know him. I participated in the protests like thousands of Oaxacans who suffer from injustice. In Oaxaca injustice is so shameless and and cynical that the police and the politicians do whatever they want. There isn't any help for the people. There are more places to get high or be an alcoholic than there are where you can play sports. It's what there is.

What do you have to say to Brad's family?
I ask that Brad Will's family please demand that the United States government demand that the Mexican government detain the true killers. Sometimes I get scared because the President is covering for the governor of Oaxaca, who is covering for those responsible for the homicide, but I have to do it.

According to the PGR [Federal Attorney General's office], this is an investigation made up of intelligence, but there's lie after lie. I also want to say that I fear for my family's lives, that they want to do something to them; I want to hold the federal government responsible for whatever might happen to my family.

Did they beat you during your detention?
No, they didn't beat me.

How were you detained?
First, at the end of September I was stopped by federal agents. I was walking down Calicanto when two men--whom I now know were agents--stopped me and asked me, "Are you Gabriel Meza?" What I told them is that I wasn't him. So they asked me my name and one grabbed my back and told me to give them my telephone. I gave it to them and they leave, telling me that they're going to get in touch with me.

I got to my house and I told my mom that two police had stopped me and then days later, during my sports work in Santa Lucia del Camino, the same people detained me. They were driving a Chevy Monza, and they told me that I had to go with him. I told them that if they were cops they needed to show me an arrest warrant, and they told me they weren't going to show me anything.

So they put me in the car and we went to the Attorney General's Office, and the government building where the preventive police are. I asked them where they were taking me, and if they were going to kill me, and that they should at least give me the right to make a phone call. "You don't have the right to shit," they told me. Later we arrived at San Bartolo Coyotepec, where the PGR is.

What happened in the PGR?
They weren't telling me anything about why they had detained me. A person arrived and asked me what organization I belonged to. I told him that I didn't belong to any organization. "Don't be an asshole, tell me what you know," he responded and later said, "Look, son of a fucking bitch, I'm going to leave for a bit and you think about what you're going to tell me, because when I get back you don't know what's going to happen to you."

I told him, "You can leave for an hour, two hours, a day, and I'm going to tell you the same thing."

He responded, "Don't be an asshole, son of a fucking bitch, but if you don't tell me, I'm going to fuck you up to get it out of you."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mexican Government Tries to Pin New Charges on Juan Martinez in Brad Will Case

The government likely knows that murder charges won’t stick in a fair trial, so it hopes to imprison Martinez for firearms possession

Oaxacan newspaper Quadratín reports that the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR in its Spanish initials) has opened a new criminal investigation against Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno in the Brad Will murder case. Martinez is the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) activist that the Mexican government has charged with murdering Will on October 27, 2006, as he filmed clashes between APPO supporters and paramilitaries affiliated with the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI).

Quadratín reports that Federal Investigation Agency (AFI, the PGR’s police force) Agent Fernando Gómez Monjarraz entered Martinez’s cell yesterday to interrogate him about how he obtained the gun they claim he used to murder Will. Despite significant pressure to answer the questions immediately, Martinez refused to answer without his lawyer present.

The November 25 Liberation Committee, a prisoner solidarity organization in Oaxaca, said that this was an act of intimidation and harassment, and that Mexican law states that any interrogation should have occurred in an interrogation room outside the jail, not in the jail itself.

The November 25 Liberation Committee believes that the government has opened the new criminal investigation against Martinez because it wants to bring more charges against him to ensure that Martinez is not set free.

The government’s case against Martinez and the other eight accused men is not likely to hold water—if the men receive fair and impartial trials, that is. Will’s family and friends, Physicians for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, and the Mexican government’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) have contradicted or outright denounced the PGR’s theory that APPO supporters shot Will at close range. All of them claim that all evidence points to a long-range shot, quite possibly shot by local police and local and state government officials. The government’s case, however, relies almost entirely on the testimony of Adolfo Feria, the mayor of Santa Lucia del Camino’s cousin. Feria claims an unidentified person told him that s/he saw a thick man in a pickup truck kill Will. Martinez does not own a pick up truck. He told the Mexican daily Milenio, “I don’t even own a bicycle.”

The government has charged an additional eight APPO supporters of covering up the crime. At least five of the nine accused voluntarily presented themselves to the PGR as witnesses to Will’s murder in March 2007. The PGR is now using their testimony as evidence against them to prove that they were present when Will was murdered. In a statement following the announcement of the arrest warrants, the witnesses said, “We gave statements before the Federal Attorney General, contributing information, we supplied testimony based on the real events, and we presented counter arguments to those of the State Attorney General, given that the information and investigation led by this institution has always been full of irregularities, ambiguities, and omissions…. We are men with great dreams and social activists but that does not make us murderers. Those responsible are other people and there is sufficient proof of this…”

Plan Mexico

At least 19 other people were killed during the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca. The government has not made arrests in any of these other cases. In late October, the head of the CNDH, José Luis Soberanes Fernández, stated his opinion on why that is the case: "It's said that they weren't going to give them [the Mexican government] the Merida Initiative resources if they didn't resolve this case, and therefore they had to clear it up at any cost, and now we see the results." The Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, is a multi-year military and police aid package from the US government. It is worth well over a billion dollars. An explanatory statement accompanying the law that authorized 2008 Plan Mexico funds required the US State Department to submit a report to Congress "detailing progress in conducting a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation to identify the perpetrators" of Will's murder. It also called for the State Department to work with the Mexican government to assist in the investigation of the case.

Prior to Plan Mexico, it seemed as though the Mexican government was going to allow the Will case to go unresolved just like the other 19 cases. Soberanes pointed out that the federal government dragged its feet for two years investigating the Will case. Then, suddenly, "in 15 days they resolve the case."

The State Department's priliminarly report on the Will murder investigation confirms the Mexican government's continual delays and lack of progress. The report, which outlines the steps the Mexican government has taken to investigate the case over the past two years, only constitutes nine pages written in 12-point font. Two-and-a-half of those pages are commentary from the State Department itself. The report documents repeated requests for information from the US Embassy and the Will family that went unanswered, sometimes for months. And the answer from the Oaxacan prosecutor's office was--when an answer came at all--that the "office was continuing to investigate the case."

Under significant pressure to resolve the case, the PGR needed to make arrests. It was faced with a choice: arrest the police officers government officials shown in photographs and videos shooting at Will around the time of his death, or blame someone else. Given that a bulk of the pressure came attached Plan Mexico--which includes armament and training for police--arresting police officers and government officials for the murder of a US journalist was not likely to grease the way for Plan Mexico funds. So the PGR arrested the witnesses.

While Martinez states that he was not present when Will was murdered, the Mexican government singled him out as the man who pulled the trigger. Martinez was likely chosen because, unlike the men accused of merely covering up the murder, he was a very easy target. During the uprising he supported the APPO as an indivudual, not as a member of an organization like the other witnesses. Martinez became further isolated when he, like some other APPO supporters, took a job working with the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, Mexico's center-left party) in the local government. The integration of some APPO members caused a division within the movement, with anti-government APPO members showing up at public events to heckle their former comrades who had taken positions within political parties and the government.

Of the nine accused men, only Martinez is in prison. The rest are free thanks to an agreement negotiated between Section 22 of the teachers union (which led the 2006 protests with the APPO) and the state government. Their arrest warrants are on hold, and the men have to report to the local district attorney's office every week. If the men are taken into custody, the teachers union has vowed to shut down Oaxaca yet again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Links between Mexican Security Secretary Garcia Luna and Drug Kingpin "El Mayo"

by Ricardo Ravelo, Proceso
translation (from the original Spanish) and notes by Kristin Bricker

Federal police say Garcia Luna's bodyguards witnessed the head of Mexico's Public Security Ministry discuss an "agreement" with a drug cartel gangster

The Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, who is considered untouchable and Felipe Calderon's "spoiled official," has maintained numerous public officials accused of having links to drug traffickers--El Mayo Zamabada in particular--in his inner circle. An investigation carried out by agents who are opposed to the proposed police integration[1] assure in a letter sent to Congress, which Proceso has a copy of, that this past October numerous armed men intercepted Garcia Luna on a highway and disarmed members of his escort while a gangster warned him, "This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don't follow through on the pact..." The document adds that then Garcia Luna withdrew from the spot for four hours in order to negotiate with the gangster...

Federal police protest Garcia LunaWith his powerful tentacles and his ability to corrupt police and infiltrate the institutions responsible for combatting drug trafficking--including the National Defense Department--, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia has extensive control within the Public Security Ministry (SSP in its Spanish initials), which is led by Genaro Garcia Luna, whose main collaborators--some of them currently held under administrative detention--are accused of being at the service of the man who today is considered to be the top boss of the Sinaloa cartel.

The owner of estates and ranches, untouchable in Sinaloa--his stronghold--, Zambada Garcia has broad networks of complicity at his disposal in the most important departments in the PGR [Federal Attorney General's Office], such as the SIEDO [the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime], and in the SSP, where various top-level officials are being investigated for serving the gangster who, following the example of Amado Carrillo[2]--who for many years was his business partner--, transformed his appearance with plastic surgery.

Also untouchable and considered to be President Felipe Calderon's "spoiled official," Garcia Luna doesn't appear to escape the networks that Zambada Garcia and the Beltran Leyva brothers created in the SSP. The Beltran Leyva brothers left the Sinaloa cartel following a division sparked by the aprehension of Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran this past January.

Police who are opposed to the federal police unification project carried out an investigation regarding the alleged ties between Garcia Luna and Zambada Garcia's and Arturo "El Barbas" Beltran Leyva's cells.

In a field investigation, backed up by records and revelations that were supposedly made by Garcia Luna's own body guards, the police agents reconstructed an episode that occurred this past October 19 in Morelos state, which they recount in a letter sent to the Chamber of Deputies [Mexico's lower house of Congress] and the Senate with the goal of demonstrating, according to the agents, the danger that granting more power to the SSP would entail. They assert that a significant number of SSP police commanders are working for drug traffickers.

The document details:

...This past October 19 (...) the current Federal Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna and his escort, comprised of approximately 27 agents, (...) was intercepted or summoned on the Cuernavaca-Tepoztlan highway by a high-ranking gangster who was accompanied by an undetermined number of shooters or hitmen in approximately 10 armored Suburbans. Said official's escort did nothing to protect him, apparently due to a verbal order from him (Garcia Luna).

The letter that is now in the hands of legislators--a copy was delivered to Proceso--adds that members of Garcia Luna's escort, under orders "from the high ranking drug gangster," were disarmed and blindfolded for "approximately four hours."

The agents who are familiar with the incident, and whose names are omitted for fear of reprisals, state in the document that the "gangster's" voice said to Garcia Luna: "This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don't follow through on the pact."

The document asserts that, after the gangster's statement, Garcia Luna retreated, "leaving his escorts to their own luck, without knowing the route he took or what he did during those four long hours, time in which he could talk in a more comfortable place away from the spot where the alleged incident occurred."

And, in another point, the letter says:

It shouldn't go unnoticed that the Secretary in question is an expert actor in deceit. It should be remembered that in the past he created a circus around a kidnapping in Ajusco in Mexico City in which a French woman was supposedly involved, where he summoned the televised media and (...) manipulated all of his bodyguards, making them believe that what happened was a drug gangster's attempt to intimidate (a levanton or drug-related kidnapping), though the truth is that it was a meeting arranged by this alleged gangster.

According to investigations carried out by the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), a good number of the officials closest to Garcia Luna appear to be contaminated by drug trafficking. Evidence that the SSP is one of the institutions most infiltrated by the Sinaloa cartel and other illicit organizations has arisen since the Vicente Fox adminstration, and even more under the current administration.

For example, Édgar Enrique Bayardo del Villar, ex-inspector assigned to the Federal Preventive Police's Operations Section, was taken into custody by the SIEDO for allegedly serving Zambada Garcia. Close to Garcia Luna, with a salary no higher than MX$26,000 monthly [at the time approximately USD$2,600], Enrique Bayardo rose out of poverty to achieve a magnificent wealth.

According to the investigation of the facts, in which PFP agents Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández are also implicated, Bayardo del Villar today owns two residences with a combined value of close to 9 million pesos.

Overnight, Bayardo del Villar broke out of his financial difficulties and bought himself BMW, aMercedes Benz, and an armored Cherokee. He spent 12 million pesos on these acquisitions and, just like his residences, he paid for them in cash.

Another piece of this network that is presumably at the service of the brothers Jesús and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada--within Garcia Luna's inner circle of trust--is Gerardo Garay Cadena, ex-commissioner of the PFP, who this past November 1 resigned from his position to voluntarily put himself "at the disposal of the authorities," although the SIEDO immediately put him under administrative detention. During the inquiries the spotlight also fell on other officials linked to Garay Cadena. One of them is Francisco Navarro, chief of the SSP's Special Operations, with broad control over the Mexico City International Airport, known as one of the major operations centers where drugs come in and drug trafficking money goes out.

Within this group that, according to the PGR, protected El Mayo Zambada, Luis Cárdenas Palominos also appears. Known as Garcia Luna's "right hand man," he wasn't put under administrative detention but he keeps being called to make statements to the SIEDO. Other high-ranking SSP and PFP officials who are held under administrative detention are Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández García.

The statement delivered to the federal Congress, in particular to the Security and Justice commissions--where the project to unify the federal police is being pushed, which is said will be resolved this year--, the AFI agents assert that Garcia Luna is incorporating personnel into the PFP and the SSP who have criminal records and ties to organized crime.

In the majority of the cases, they warn about inexperience and improvisation in investigations related to organized crime activity that, according to Edgardo Buscaglia, an investigator with the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), constitute a range of 25 crimes such as drug trafficking, contraband, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

In their statement, the agents tackle the corruption and disorder that run rampant in Garcia Luna's agency. They say that personnel called to leave the AFI [which Garcia Luna used to run] and join the Federal Police [which Garcia Luna now runs as head of the SSP] have not completed four years of police duty and that priority is given to those who come recommended or who are supporters of high-ranking officials, as well as "high-ranking officials' friends and lovers."

A number of the agents' statements and warnings can be confirmed even in recent incidents. For example, two days after Gerardo Garay's resigniation, on November 3, Garcia Luna named Rodrigo Esparza Cisterna as acting commissioner of the PFP. Esparza Cisterna has a history that is as long as it is shady.

In 1993, when Rodrigo Esparza was a PGR delegate in Sinaloa, the first rumblings surfaced over his alleged relationship with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, then a bitter rival of the Arellano Félix brothers, the bosses of the Tijuana cartel.

According to the official memo DGPDSC/UEA/1938/2005, dated August 12, 2005, and obtained through a request to the Federal Institute for Access to Information (record number 0001700181305), Esparza was accused of impeding the administration of justice. Said accusation was registered in the criminal proceeding 159/93, which came out of the criminal investigation 3423/93. On June 28, 1993, the charges were accepted by the Third Criminal Court in the Ramo District in Mexico City, and later he was imprisoned awaiting trial.

His detention was revoked on August 23, 1993, via judicial tricks. In less than three months, Esparza saw the investigation into his alleged wrongdoings buried with a stay of proceedings in his case. This precedent notwithstanding, Rodrigo Esparza is now Garcia Luna's right hand man in the PFP.

A Portrait of Power

El Mayo Zambada was chubby and round-faced, but one day Vicente and Amado Carrillo, who underwent plastic surgery in the Santa Monica clinic in Mexico City--the clinic where Amado Carrillo died in 1997--, suggested that he change his appearance and he accepted.

Zambada lost weight and made his cheeks smaller. His face became more chiseled and a bit elongated thanks to the face lift. When Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos[3] was head of the SIEDO, federal agents found, during a search of one of his multiple properties, a photograph where Zambada Garcia looked rejuvenated and slender. The photo was saved in the files related to the Juarez cartel, the organization that El Mayo belonged to. Untouchable for decades, Ismael Zambada has demonstrated his power and ability to increasingly infiltrate government institutions during the Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, and Felipe Calderon administrations: over 35 Federal District Attorney agents assigned to the SIEDO were his employees, and each one received USD$350,000-$400,000 monthly for leaking information about case files and preliminary investigations in progress against members of his organization. During Vicente Fox's term, the Sinaloa cartel even infiltrated the National Defense Department (Sedena), where, through Arturo "El Chaky" Gonzalez Hernandez, various high-ranking military officials who operated the telecommunications systems were coopted. They advised him in advance that in a matter of days or hours military operations would be carried out.

Moreover, El Mayo Zambada had control of the Sinaloa police, and high-ranking military commanders looked after his personal safety and his businesses. The impunity and power were of such a magnitude that in December 2005 at the El Mezquite ranch, a Christmas party was organized. The band Ilusion provided the entertainment. Zambada Garcia attended the party. Rivers of alcohol flowed, strong doses of cocaine were distributed, and shots were fired into the air.

This drew the attention of a sector of the Mexican military stationed in Sinaloa, which requested a search warrant in order to enter the ranch. Due to the fact that--rather unusually--it took hours to issue the warrant, Zambada Garcia had time to leave the site, which was protected by police, and calmly go to his hideout, a fortress whose entrances and sidewalks are permanently guarded by his people.

In May 2007, the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control published a report that six companies and twelve people in Mexico are part of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada's financial network.

The US report indicates that Zambada's ex-wife, Rosario Niebla Cardoza, was well as his four daughters--Maria Teresa, Miriam Patricia, Monica del Rosario, and Modesta Zambada Niebla--play a key role in El Mayo's dirty businesses. They carry out an important function in the gangster's "property and control of his companies."

After the falling out between the Beltran Leyva brothers and "El Chapo" Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel--at its peak it was perhaps the most powerful criminal organization in Latin America--suffered a reduction in power, but it hasn't been brought down completely.

According to information from the SSP and the PGR, the Beltrans extended their tentacles: they penetrated the SIEDO, the PGR, and a good part of the military's regional commands, in addition to allying themselves with Los Zetas[4] and the Juarez cartel, whose current boss is Vicente "El Viceroy" Carrillo.

Zambada Garcia and Joaquin Guzman have maintained their alliance, and Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel[5] and the Cazares Salazar brothers[6] are also a part of this group.[7]

This drug clan suffered a loss recently: this past October 17, Jesus "El Rey" Zambada Garcia, El Mayo's brother who had a reputation for being discrete, was detained in Mexico City. Up until 2007, Jesus Zambada was not considered a kingpin--not even by United States intelligence agencies--, but after his capture Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora described him as one of the most important people in El Mayo Zambada's money laundering network.

Another event alluded to the true power of El Rey Zambada: in Culiacan, Sinaloa, a banner was hung near the state Congress that shot down the thesis that Jesus Zambada Garcia was a small-time player. The banner said:

Chapo Guzman, they kill your son and you keeping being murderers' friends. Don't be ashamed; how Nachito Coronel has changed you. He bosses you around to his liking and all because he takes care of you. Intelligent El Rey Zambada: you are killing counties, states, and ministerial cabinets, and he is unloading ephedrine and cocaine in the Mexico City airport.

In October--the month in which Garcia Luna was supposedly intercepted in Morelos, according to the agents' statement--, the blows against El Mayo Zambada's organization worsened. The Quinta La Paloma and Los Alpes ranches in Acaxochitlan, Hidalgo, were searched by federal police. The SIEDO said the properties belonged to El Rey Zambada.

El Mayo Zambada received a financial blow on September 18 when USD$26 million was seized--money which he had hidden in a safe house, carefully stacked in egg boxes.

Despite the blows against the Sinaloa cartel and notwithstanding the division that it suffered with its separation from the Beltran brothers, the organization continues afloat in drug trafficking: it controls sea ports and airports, and it has allies in high levels within the SSP who, according to the missive sent by federal police to Congress, "are obligated to follow through on the pacts."

[1] The Mexican government has proposed combining the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI in its Spanish initials) with the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) under a single command: that of the SSP. The AFI is currently the Federal Attorney General's (PGR's) police force and was founded to be an investigative police force. The PFP, on the other hand, is the Public Security Secretary's police force. It aims to "prevent crimes" and is more militarized than other police forces. Over 150 agents from the PFP and AFI hit the streets in September in protest of the plan, arguing that it would give more control to Garcia Luna and the corruption-ridden SSP.
[2] Amado Carrillo Fuentes led the Juarez cartel along with other family members. Carrillo Fuentes died in 1997 during a plastic surgery operation that was intended to change his appearance. The doctors alleged to have botched the operation, Dr. Jaime Godoy Singh, Dr. Ricardo Reyes Rincón, and Dr. Carlos Humberto Avila Melgem, were widely reported to have been brutally tortured, murdered, and partially entombed in cement-filled oil drums. The PGR had charged the doctors with murdered Carrillo Fuentes, claiming that they should have known that administering the sleeping drug Dormicum would have killed him due to his liver problems. However, there are rumors that Dr. Rincón, also known as Pedro López Saucedo and Pedro Rincón, is alive and residing in the United States under the witness protection program in exchange for information about the Juarez cartel. The Washington Post reported that Dr. Rincón knew Carrillo Fuentes and had operated on many of his friends. "Rincón" means "secluded corner" in Spanish and may have alluded to his status as a back-alley doctor.
[3] Vasconcelos died in the November 4, 2008, plane crash that also killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mouriño, three other government officials, three crew members, and six people who were on the ground when the plane hit Mexico City's financial district. The official explanation for the crash was that the pilot followed a Mexicana commercial airliner too closely and the resulting turbulence downed the plane.
[4] Los Zetas was a specialized unit of the Mexican military that received training in the US School of the Americas. After completing their US taxpayer-funded training, they defected from the military en masse and became drug cartels' armed thugs. They've been accused of running their own drugs, too.
[5] Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel is known as the "King of Crystal" because he dominates the crystal meth market. He is also alleged to move cocaine and run the Sinaloa cartel's finances.
[6] Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar has been identified as being in charge of the Sinaloa cartel's money laundering operation.
[7] In previous publicaitons, Ricardo Ravelo has described the Sinaloa cartel has having a "rectangular" structure with numerous cells, as opposed to a top-down "pyramid" headed by one person. This makes the cartel more flexible and adaptable, and less vulnerable to operations that aim to pick off its leaders. Zambada Garcia, Guzman Loera, Coronel, and the Cazares Salazar family have all been identified by the US government as Sinaloa cartel leaders, and all appear on the US government's "Foreign Narcotics Kingpins" list.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

US Releases $90 million in Plan Mexico Military Hardware and Training

Sources within the US Congress have confirmed to Narco News that the US government has released approximately USD$90 million of the $116.5 million in foreign military financing (FMF) under Plan Mexico, also known as the Merida Initiative or Plan Merida. The $90 million comprises approximately 77% of Mexico's total FMF allotment under Plan Mexico in 2008.

The US Congress authorized the release of up to 85%, or $99 million, of 2008 FMF funds pending a report from the Secretary of State on Mexico's compliance with the human rights conditions laid out in Plan Mexico. However, congressional sources state that Mexico has not yet met the human rights conditions, so the State Department has not submitted the report.

The human rights conditions are minimal--they requite the establishment of a commission to receive complaints about police conduct, that the Mexican government regularly meet with Mexican human rights organizations so that they can "make recommendations concerning the implementation of" Plan Mexico (thereby excluding from the consultations any NGOs that oppose the military aid package), that civilian prosecutors and judges investigate and prosecute federal police and military forces who are accused of committing human rights abuses, and that evidence obtained through torture not be used in court.

This last point will be particularly difficult for the Secretary of State to certify given that the Mexican weekly Proceso revealed this month that the three suspects arrested by the Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) in the Morelia, Michoacan, "narcoterrorist" grenade attack case were tortured by a drug cartel or Mexican security forces into saying they were members of the Los Zetas criminal organization and that they threw the grenades that killed eight people on Mexico's Independence Day. Official memos leaked to Proceso from an unidentified intelligence agency confirm that security authorities in Michoacan met with representatives from the La Familia drug cartel prior to the arrests "agreeing that they would detain various people" and accuse them of carrying out the Morelia attack. One theory that competes with the official hypothesis that Los Zetas carried out the Morelia attack is that La Familia carried out the attack in order to provoke a military crackdown on Los Zetas, who have been running contraband through La Familia's turf.

Military Hardware

The Defense Department’s Security Cooperation Agency, which administers the FMF program, defines Foreign Military Financing as “the U.S. government program for financing through grants or loans the acquisition of U.S. military articles, services, and training.”

At this time it is unknown what military hardware the $90 million purchased and what hardware is still pending the release of the human rights report. However, the Plan Mexico spending plan, which Narco News published in September, outlines how the 2008 FMF will be spent.

According to the spending plan, FMF funding will provide up to two CASA 235 aircraft. The spending plan states: “In addition to up to two aircraft, the package provided will include logistics support (primarily spare parts and limited technical support) for three years. Funding will also support transition training (training for experienced pilots to fly a new type of aircraft) for Mexican pilots.” CASA 235 planes have the ability to use night vision equipment, two computers to transmit and receive information from a military base or control center, and room for 57 soldiers with all of their equipment or 48 parachutists. CASA 235s can also carry six anti-ship missiles and two MK46 torpedoes or Exocet M-39 anti-ship missiles.

Mexico will also receive up to five BH-412 EP (Bell Helicopter) medium-lift utility helicopters along with a logistics support package for two years for new aircraft and possibly four Mexico-owned helicopters already in service. This includes training for pilots. BH-412s are designed to rapidly deploy military forces, which, according to the spending plan, will “establish security needed for successful interdiction of arms, drugs, and persons.” BH-412s carry 1-2 crewmembers and 13-14 soldiers and are equipped for day and night flight.

FMF funding will also refurbish and completely equip two Cessna Citation II C-550 surveillance aircraft for the Mexican Office of the Attorney General (PGR). Cessna Citations have radar and cameras. They can be outfitted with weapons and often are when they’re used in the war on drugs. In 2001, Cessna Citations provided by the US government and piloted by Peruvian pilots under the direction of CIA agents killed a US missionary and her baby in Peru when they were mistaken for drug traffickers.

Plan Mexico will provide an undetermined number of ion scanners “to support the efforts of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) and Mexican Army/Air Force (SEDENA) to control their national territory and the southern approach to the United States.” The ion scanners come with a standard maintenance package. The spending plan notes that they’re “capable of detecting both explosives and narcotics” and will be “used by SEDENA to help detect illicit drug and arms trafficking through remote areas of Mexico and will support the GOM’s [government of Mexico’s] effort to mount a robust interdiction system via land routes.” Ion scanners analyze the size of molecules to test for the presence of drugs. They are meant to provide a preliminary assessment: a positive test result does not confirm the presence of drugs, but should trigger a more thorough inspection. Ion scanners are known to produce more false positives than true positives and are widely abused by prison authorities in the US to harass prison visitors by denying them access.

This is the first year in recent memory that Mexico will receive FMF funds from the United States. Up until now, Mexico was cut off from receiving US military assistance because it is a party to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Under US law, countries who are parties to the Rome Statute can only receive US military aid if they enter into an Article 98 agreement in which they promise to not prosecute US citizens in the ICC. Mexico has not entered into an Article 98 agreement, but the law banning parties to the Rome Statute contains a loophole: the president can waive the law, allowing the country to receive FMF, if he deems it to be in the US' "national interest."

More Armament

According to the spending plan, Mexico will also receive armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, and related “technical assistance” provided under Plan Mexico’s anti-narcotics section. These funds, however, are pending the signing of a letter of agreement between the US and Mexican governments. The letter of agreement outlines how the Plan Mexico training and equipment will be transferred. El Financiero reports that Condoleezza Rice's Mexican counterpart, Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, believes the letter of agreement will be finalized and signed this week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Up to the Highest Level: Narco Infiltration in Felipe Calderon’s Government

By Ricardo Ravelo, Proceso
Translation from the original Spanish and notes by Kristin Bricker

The animosity between the heads of Federal Attorney General’s Office and the Public Security Ministry don’t just immobilize the federal government and make its crusade against drug traffickers and organized crime futile. It also shows that both institutions are so porous that the gangsters have already positioned themselves in them. The infiltration is of such magnitude that even Eduardo Medina Mora and Genaro Garcia Luna have become suspect.

The disagreements between the heads of the Public Security Ministry (SSP in its Spanish initials) and the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) keep Felipe Calderon’s government practically submerged in a lack of credibility and without an effective strategy in its fight against organized crime.

In the almost two years that Calderon has been in office, the leaking of information, the alleged protection of drug traffickers, the power struggles, and the vices in both agencies have been exacerbated, which impedes the success of the crusade against the drug cartels.

Combined with that, within the past couple of days in multiple states, narcobanners appeared in which the head of the SSP, Genaro Garcia Luna, and multiple agents from that ministry are referred to as protectors of the Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

After the capture of Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, his son Jesus Zambada, and other Sinaloa cartel members, two of Garcia Luna’s colleagues, Victor Gerardo Garay Cadena and Luis Cardenas Palominos, the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) internal commissioner and the intelligence coordinator of the SSP, respectively, were interrogated by agents from the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO) for allegedly protecting the Sinaloa cartel’s hitmen.

On October 30, three days after the interrogation, when all indications were that they would be detained, Garcia Luna “strongly pressured” the PGR so that they would be freed, according to a source inside the PGR. Likewise, federal police, particularly from the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), accuse Garcia Luna of being in collusion with the Sinaloa cartel since the last administration, when he served as director of the AFI. On October 31 Garay Cadena resigned from his position.

And for the same reasons—protecting the Sinaloa cartel hitmen and the messages on the narcobanners—about 70 federal agents, many from the PFP’s Special Operations Group, which operated under Garay Cadena’s orders, were subpoenaed to make statements to the SIEDO.

Commissioner Javier Herrera Valle, the ex-commissioner of the PFP who was recently fired from the SSP, says that Garcia Luna has become an untouchable official, despite his dark past and the signs that link him to drug trafficking.

“Garcia Luna, at least according to what Juan de Dios Castro Lozano (the PGR’s assistant attorney general for human rights) tells me, is President Calderon’s spoiled official. I think that’s why he can’t be touched,” says Herrera Valle.

This reporter asked Herrera, “Do you think Garcia Luna is the spoiled man in the Cabinet, or are there dark complicities that unite him with the president?”

“I don’t know what to think or say anymore. I haven’t received responses to my letters in which I denounce corruption. But I don’t doubt that Garcia Luna is untouchable, and that is very dangerous for the country.”


The signs that Garcia Luna is allegedly in league with the Sinaloa cartel aren’t new. According to information from the PGR, his alleged relationships with narcos date back to 2005 and he hasn’t even been investigated for that.

The criminal investigation PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/106/2005 against the Beltran Leyva brothers’ cell—when they maintained a solid alliance with the Sinaloa cartel and controlled Guerrero state—contains revelations that implicate the head of the SSP in the alleged protection of this criminal group.

It has to do with transcriptions of telephone calls, emails sent by people who identify themselves as members of the Gulf cartel—in 2005 there was a serious fight between Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva family for control of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, two important narco turfs—in which they report that Garcia Luna was receiving million-peso payments from the Beltran Leyvas.

Along with other messages, a call received on May 15, 2005, in the PGR became part of a body of evidence. The report says:

In the general affairs office during the night watch, an anonymous call was received at the number 5228618399 from a person who said he was a Gulf cartel member. He called to report that agents from the Federal Investigation Agency [in 2005 Garcia Luna served as the AFI’s director] stationed in Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, detained five Zetas yesterday afternoon, May 4, (and) that instead of handing them over to the district attorney’s office and sending them to jail, they handed them over to Arturo Beltran Leyva’s cartel. He also said that it wasn’t good that AFI agents played narcopolice.

In another report in the criminal investigation, over which Garcia Luna was not bothered, let alone investigated, there is a blunt detail: that the current Secretary of Public Security was receiving money from the Sinaloa cartel:

We know that the AFI director, Genaro [Garcia] Luna is in collusion with Arturo Beltran Leyva’s organization. He has received great quantities of money through a director named Domingo Gonzalez (the same man to whom Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villareal paid a million dollars so that he would protect him and his boss Arturo Beltran Leyva), who is in the neighboring country of Belize as a fugitive from justice.

The message, allegedly sent to the PGR by Gulf cartel personnel, ends with a warning:

We are waiting for your intervention in this reproachable action as soon as possible and we demand [that] you free our five compañeros and return them to their families. If not, we will rain all our strength and anger upon those narcopolice. If there isn’t a reaction, in five days we will pass all of this information to the media, and two days later you will receive our personal message against those bandits or narcopolice.

In addition to the messages that President Felipe Calderon has received about the internal disintegration in the SSP and the corruption (selling positions within the ministry, “doubling up” on travel allowances [making business trips family vacations], and the police and high ranking PFP officials’ collusion with narcos), Garcia Luna continues to be immovable, and now his position seems to be reinforced by the reappearance of Jorge Tello Peon—his mentor—,who served as Undersecretary of Public Security during [former president] Ernesto Zedillo’s term and disappeared from the public stage shortly after El Chapo Guzman escaped from prison in January 2001.

The signs that Garcia Luna serves the narcos’ interests have come from many sources, but none of them have worked. He continues in his position, despite everything.

On August 1, 2007, for example, the Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora received a letter signed by a protected witness—whose name and code were omitted for fear of reprisal—which refers to the relationship Garcia Luna, while he was director of the AFI, maintained with Alberto Pliego (now deceased), who was allegedly linked to the ephedrine business.[1]

According to a source, Pliego Fuentes—to whom the capture of Daniel “El Mochaorejas” Arizmendi[2] is attributed, amongst others—had a relationship with the Amezcua Contreras brothers’ cartel, known as pioneers in the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and, through their relationships with high-ranking AFI officials, obtained the chemical substance that is the base for so-called designer drugs.

The crisis recently hit inside the SSP when hundreds of federal agents from the AFI as well as the PFP hardened their positions and hit the streets in a protest against Garcia Luna for his bad decisions in the fight against drug trafficking.

The dissenters demanded a purge within the institution, the removal of “commanders,” and an end to the project to unify the AFI and the PFP under a single command, which, according to them, means “giving more power to Garcia Luna to serve dubious interests.”

This past October 20, new evidence emerged regarding the alleged protection AFI and PFP officials offer the Sinaloa cartel, particularly to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and his family.

That day a shoot-out occurred in the vicinity of the Lindavista neighborhood in northern Mexico City, where El Mayo Zambada’s family members, including his brother Jesus Zambada, had rented a house. During the confrontation, which resulted from a supposed anonymous tip that alerted the authorities to the presense of the gangsters, four federal agents appeared who repelled the gunfire in defense of the alleged drug traffickers from the Pacific cartel.

According to information from the PGR, one of the agents that helped out the Zambada family is Ulises Rodriguez Rodriguez, who was presented as an ex-member of the now-defunct Federal Judicial Police. According to information from the SSP, this person is really named Marco Antonio Valadez Rico, an active PFP officer assigned to the Airports and Borders Division, under the orders of Oscar Moreno Villatoro.

The other three police, who also operate within Garcia Luna’s close circle, are: Carlos Gerardo Castillo Ramirez, assigned to the AFI’s Regional Deployment department; Jose Guillermo Baez Figueroa, who worked in the PFP’s Regional Deployment Division; and Francisco Montaño Ochoa, ministerial agent from the state of Mexico, a territory currently disputed by Los Zetas, La Familia, and the Sinaloa cartel.

Unfulfilled Promises

In the PGR the situation is even more critical. Over a period of decades there are few attorney generals who have not been implicated in corruption or for their links with drug trafficking.

Medina Mora’s two most recent predecessors, Rafael Macedo de la Concha and Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, promised to clean up the PGR with triumphant discourses. Both failed.

The first was caught up in various scandals, one in particular, according to the criminal investigation PGR/GRO/ACAAMA/413/2005, accused him of protecting Los Zetas; the second, who worked in the PGR during the last 20 months of the Fox administration, recognized his failure. He even stated before he quit that his agents were on the verge of capturing El Chapo Guzman, but that he managed to escape.

Medina Mora, upon being ratified by the Senate in December 2006, declared: “The PGR’s promise is to reclaim the spaces lost to organized crime. Mexicans can rest assured that they live in a country with laws, with absolute respect for human rights, with effective and transparent law enforcement.”

He added: “The great responsibility of this institution is to avoid fear and promote Mexicans’ confidence in the institutions responsible for carrying out justice…”

Almost two years after that discourse, in which he also promised to clean up the PGR, Medina Mora now faces one of the most serious conflicts: drug trafficking’s infiltration of the SIEDO, the most important assistant attorney general’s office in investigations against organized crime.

According to information from the PGR, the Beltran Leyvas’ cell managed to build a wide network of informants—secretaries, agents from the district attorney’s office, prosecutors, police—who notified them in advance of operations carried out against their organization.

Amongst the informants there are a little more than thirty agents from the district attorney’s office who passed information to the Beltran Leyva brothers, as well as confidential information about open investigations. In exchange for these favors, they received monthly rewards of between USD$350,0000 and USD$400,000.

Of the SIEDO employees that worked for the Beltran Leyva brothers, a few stand out: Miguel Colorado and Fernando Rivera, who were allied with Antonio Mejia and Jorge Alberto Zavala. Today the four are imprisoned in the Puente Grante jail in Jalisco. Meanwhile, Javier “El Pinocho” Jimenez Sanchez, an AFI agent assigned to the SIEDO, and Jose Antonio Cueto Lopez, former Federal Judicial Police agent and alleged link between the Beltran Leyvas and high-ranking SIEDO officials, are fugitives.

When the conflict hit the SIEDO, which raised doubts about Medina Mora’s promise two years ago to clean up the agency, Medina Mora tried to defend himself by declaring that there was a relaxing of personnel control and the custody of the information contained in the SIEDO’s dossiers.

He added, “The standard recruiting and selection mechanisms have not been regularly practiced. Moreover, perhaps they haven’t been practiced with the rigor and thoroughness that’s required.”

This is not the first time that the Sinaloa cartel has infiltrated the power structure. The SIEDO scandal is similar to what occurred under the Vicente Fox administration, when the Beltran Leyvas “hooked” the chief of presidential tours, Nahum Acosta, who maintained an intimate relationship with Arturo Beltran.

This link was discovered by US DEA agents, as well as through recordings that were handed over to the SIEDO in which it was recommended that they investigate “what goes on in the number one house[3] in Mexico.”

In October 2001, shortly before the narcos’ infiltration into Los Pinos [the president’s official residence] was discovered, the emblematic members of the Juarez cartel—Vicente Carrillo, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, Javier “El JT” Torres Felix, and Arturo “El Chaky” Gonzalez Hernandez, amongst others—created a network of informants in the PGR and in the National Defense Department (Sedena).

Amongst the informants there were prosecutors and soldiers. One of the group’s bosses was Francisco Tornez Castro or Victor Manuel Llamas Escobar, known as “Captain Tornez,” who was in charge of the collection and processing of substantive information provided by infiltrated cells in multiple government agencies, which was then handed over to the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.

Those operations are similar to those that were recently discovered in the SIEDO.

[1] Ephedrine is a precursor of methamphetamine.
[2] Daniel “El Mochaorejas” Arizmendi is a cop-turned-kidnapper. His trademark was to cut the ears off his victims and send them to their families with a ransom note. He’s responsible for at least three murders and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is imprisoned in the same maximum-security prison as the Frente Popular en Defensa de la Tierra’s leader Ignacio “Nacho” del Valle, who was convicted of a crime he wasn’t anywhere near when it allegedly occurred. Nacho didn’t kill anyone (although at the protest he was imprisoned over, police murdered two people), but he’s in prison for 112 years.
[3] Nahum Acosta worked in Los Pinos, the president’s official residence. The DEA and the SIEDO have recordings of Hector Beltran Leyva, one of the leaders of the Beltran Leyva organization, calling Acosta at his Los Pinos office. In one recording, Beltran Leyva arranges to leave a “little gift” of USD$5 million with Acosta’s doorman at his home. Acosta was arrested, but later released for “lack of evidence.”

Morelia Case: Confessions “Under Torture”

By Jorge Carrasco Araizaga and Francisco Castellanos J., Proceso
Translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker

Through confessions obtained “under torture” and with multiple irregularities, the Federal Attorney General’s office (PGR in its Spanish initials) maintains the three alleged culprits under arrest in the September 15 terrorist attack in Morelia, Michoacan—which left eight people dead and 106 injured—even though many family members and neighbors assure that the accused were in Lazaro Cardenas [250 miles south of Morelia] the moment the attacks occurred.
mug shots showing torture

Juan Carlos Castro Galeana, Julio Cesar Mondragon Mendoza, and Alfredo Rosas Elicea, the suspects in the grenade attack, were kidnapped and tortured by armed men in Lazaro Cardenas and later brought to a house in Apatzingan, where they were tormented again, before federal authorities took charge of them.

According to the criminal investigation PGR/SIEDO/UEITA/110/2008, the accused say they were kidnapped and psychologically and physically tortured for days so that they would confess to the attack and to being members of Los Zetas.

According to their statements, which Proceso had access to, the kidnappings happened between September 18-23 in Lazaro Cardenas, a port city in the zone controlled by the La Familia cartel, which is involved in a turf war with Los Zetas for control of drug trafficking in Michoacan. La Familia had offered to undertake its own investigation to find people responsible for the attack.

Despite the fact that the Assistant Attorney General for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), Marisela Morales Ibañez, credited an anonymous call that revealed the location of those who are now detained, a memo provided to this weekly by a member of an intelligence organization says that on September 18 “there was a meeting between the security authorites in Michoacan and La F. (La Familia), in some cabins in the vicinity of Cuitzeo (security barracks), agreeing that they would detain various people” in order to blame the Morelia attacks and the grenade attack against the Michoacan Assistant Attorney General’s Office in Lazaro Cardenas, which occurred this past August.

As the agency in charge of the operation, the intelligence organization identifies a person known as El Tutas and specifies that three days before the PGR announced the detentions, the alleged attackers were detained “in the outskirts of Cuatro Caminos (near Apatzingan) on the property belonging to someone called El Becerro.”

However, the official version is that the whereabouts of the accused were unknown until September 24 in the afternoon, when they appeared in the Antunez mountains in Apatzingan thanks to an anonymous call that the PGR’s Mexico City telephone number 53-46-81-21 received.

The head of SIEDO presented them to the press a few days later on Friday, September 26, as those who had confessed to tossing the two grenades the night of the Cry for Independence in downtown Morelia: one in the Melchor Ocampo plaza, in front of the Government Palace, and the other in the intersection of Madero and Quintana Roo streets.

The assistant attorney general assured that, represented by court-appointed lawyers, they said they were Zetas. Moreover, the PGR released a video in which the detained men not only declare themselves guilty, but, lead on by the district attorney, they also give details as to how they supposedly tossed the grenades.

This video is one of the aspects challenged by defense attorney Mario Patricio Solano, who maintains that the defendants’ first statements to the district attorney assigned to the SIEDO were made while they were blindfolded, without a lawyer, and without a medical exam that would have certified the torture they received. For that reason they filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).

Meanwhile, up until last week the PGR had neglected to question the detained men’s families and neighbors, who hope to demonstrate that on the night of September 15 the accused were in Lazaro Cardenas, where they live, during the Morelia attack. At least 15 people, the majority of them neighbors, have offered to testify.

One of the family members states, “Leonel Godoy (the governor of Michoacan) should ask his parents. His parents live three blocks from one of the detained men’s houses.”

Detained since September 27 in the PGR’s National Detention Center in Mexico City’s Doctores neighborhood, on October 13 the accused filed an appeal with the 7th District Criminal Appeals Court in Mexico City against their detention. SIEDO’s Special Unit for Investigations Related to Terrorism, Stockpiles, and Arms Trafficking (UEITA) is in charge of their detention.

They are accused of organized crime, terrorism, and possession of a military-issue firearm. Their 40-day pre-trail detention period expired on November 5, but it can be extended for up to an additional 40 days.

The PGR has not only avoided calling the witnesses offered by the accused, but it has also not responded to the defense’s requests for the videos of the attacks from the Melchor Ocampo plaza, as well as the September 18-26 videos from the toll booths on the stretches of highway in Lazaro Cardenas, Apatzingan, and Morelia, the time period in which the accused were kidnapped and were handed over to the PGR.

The videos are fundamental for the defense, says the lawyer, not only to verify their claims about their kidnapping and transfer, but also to determine the time and place in which the PGR took charge of them.

The Kidnappings

According to reports obtained by Proceso in Apatzingan, on September 25 at 10am a Casa 229 plane marked XB-BIC arrived in that city. After an hour and a half a Suburban truck with tinted windows approached the aircraft.

Three blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten people were taken out of the car. They put them on the plane and from there were brought to Mexico City, according to witnesses to the transfer.

Not even the commander of the 43 Military Zone, Gen. Julio Abdon Pedroza Jurado, headquartered in Apatzingan, was notified of the arrival. Only a lieutenant who was guarding the airport, Pablo L. Sidar, was informed.

As soon as the SIEDO made known the capture of the alleged Zetas, various journalists arrived in Apatzingan in order to investigate the time and place of the arrests. No one could give them an answer: not the PGR delegation, not the state attorney general’s office, and not the Military Zone.

“We don’t know anything. You see that this is closely guarded. They come from Mexico City, they carry out the operation, they take them away, and they don’t tell anyone,” was the brief response from a couple of local authorities.

Not withstanding, the detained men’s families and neighbors—interviewed by Proceso in Lazaro Cardenas and Mexico City—explain, as witnesses and from the detained men’s accounts, the manner in which the kidnappings and torture occurred, the conditions of their handover to the PGR, and their first statements to the SIEDO.

Upon presenting the suspects, Assistant Attorney General Marisela Morales limited herself to saying that, thanks to an anonymous call received by the PGR on September 24, the accused “were located and detained” in a house in Apatzingan, and from there transferred to Mexico City.

But the families say that “they were kidnapped in Lazaro Cardenas, in different houses and on different days, by unidentified armed men, who handed them over to the authorities after torturing them for days.”

The first man to be kidnapped was 38-year-old Juan Carlos Castro Galeana, identified as El Grande. His sister Magali and his wife Esperanza Fajardo Ruiz recount that on September 18, just before 2pm, he was kidnapped while he was in the Gonzalez Body Shop in Lazaro Cardenas, where he worked.

He was there with the business owner and another worker—from whom the PGR has still not taken statements—when three men in a white Mitsubishi pick-up truck without plates arrived. “They ordered him into the pick-up at gunpoint. They beat him and covered his face.

“That’s when the torment began. They asked him why he had thrown the grenades, which he denied. Later they tied his hands with packing tape and beat him with boards. He told us that later they dragged him to a river and left him there all night. He also says that they had him with his arms up for a whole day, always blindfolded,” says Magali.

Moreover, they threatened to slit his throat and those of his wife and brother if he didn’t declare himself guilty. Not only that, he had to respond exactly as they ordered him to. If he made a mistake they beat him more, she says.

Despite the punishment, during the ordeal they gave him a lot of water and food. He noticed that he was in three different places. In one place there were multiple people.

According to the relatives, the seconding man to be kidnapped was Julio Cesar Mondragon Mendoza, whom the PGR identified as having the alias El Tierra Caliente. He is 35 years old and works for a construction company. On Sunday, September 21, at about 3pm, five armed people picked him up while he was washing his car outside his house.

Yudith Medina Ayala, Cesar Mondragon’s wife, says that the five men violently put him into a car. The pattern was the same: psychological and physical torture and death threats so that he would take responsibility for the terrorist attacks.

His wife says he was hung by the feet with a chain and whipped, and that they also beat him with a board and burned him with cigarettes. They also put his head into a bag of water mixed with some other substance, which they also did to the other two people.

Cesar Mondragon also received severe blows to the nose. It was his composite sketch that the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office circulated just days after the attacks.

The third kidnapping was that of Alfredo Rosas Elicea, alias El Socio and/or Valiente. He is 45 years old, a father of three, and also a construction worker. He was violently removed from his house. His kidnapping was the most brief, but he was the most injured because he refused to implicate himself. “They broke five ribs, he’s at risk of going deaf in one ear, and they caused complications with his diabetes,” says his wife Julia Sanchez Vezquez.

“They told my husband: ‘you threw the grenade.’ But he didn’t want to accept that. That’s why they beat him the most. At times he fainted, and they had to bathe him so he came to. He was so bad off that after being presented in SIEDO he was hospitalized for five days in the Medical Tower,” in the Tabacalera neighborhood, says Julia Sanchez.

In contrast to El Grande’s family, the other two wives didn’t report their husbands’ disappearances. “We didn’t because we thought that it was a kidnapping and that we would receive a call asking for ransom,” explains Yudith Medina.

In their statements to the SIEDO, the detained men testified that the kidnappers never left them alone, but that when the PGR agents arrived at the house where they were being held, they found them on the floor, blindfolded, handcuffed, and with their feet tied.

The families say, “When the agents asked them who they were, they responded, ‘We’re Los Zetas.’ That was the signal. That was when they took them to the Apatzingan airport. Upon landing in Mexico City, they were threatened again, ‘Well, you already know the truth and what you have to say. If not, you’re going to get fucked up.’”

According to the record of the anonymous tip, which is part of the investigation, the SIEDO doesn’t know the origin of the call. The caller ID said, “Outside.” However, the work was already done for Marisela Morales’ office.

The caller said, “I want to report the people who tossed the grenades on September 15 in Morelia, because what they did was rotten. They’re in the Antunez mountains in Apatzingan. They’re tied up, in a house with a white metal door. The house is under construction. It’s located next to a soccer field and in front you can see a huge antenna. You can’t miss it. You need to go get them fast.

“These dudes are Zetas. They call one of them Juan Carlos Castro Galeana, alias El Grandote. This one threw the grenade that killed all those people. He’s about 1.9 meters tall, strong, robust, curly hair, between 35 and 40 years old, with a brown clear complexion. They call another one Julio Cesar Mondragon Mendoza, alias El Tierra Caliente. He’s about 35 years old, 1.7 meters tall. He’s got a shaved head. He has a beard and mustache; he’s light-skinned. Another is Alfredo Rosas Elicea, alias El Socio and/or El Valiente. He’s older, about 45 years old. He’s skinny, with short black hair, brown-skinned.”

The end of the call doesn’t jive with what the PGR reported. The caller said that there was “another man (whom) they call El Flaco.” Next, the record of the call says that the anonymous caller “added that their compañeros tied them up in a house to prevent them from deserting because they’re sorry for what they did. You have to go for them fast or you’ll lose.

“The boss is a man whom they call El Cesar. I’ve seen him around Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan. He’s also a Zeta. If you don’t believe me, go to the house I told you and you’ll see that what I’m saying is true.”

Despite the fact that the call was made at 2pm on September 24, it wasn’t until about 4pm the next day that only three SIEDO agents—Jose Martin Zarza Escamilla, Ignacio Moreno Aguilar, and Armando Javier Rojo Olivar—arrived at the house.

Moreno Aguilar stated in his report: “We were in the house’s entranceway. We heard people moaning… We asked them to come out with their hands up, and we heard them say that they couldn’t because they were tied up and handcuffed. Once inside we found three individuals in a room…seated on the floor…and we saw that their feet were tied up, and that they were handcuffed and blindfolded.”

When they were interrogated, he continued, “they stated that they belonged to the Zetas group” and that their compañeros had had them in the house since September 16, “since the three of us were the ones who threw the grenades… They put us here because when we realized the damage we’d caused… we complained to a man they call El Bola. That’s why they thought we’d desert the organization and put the identities of many members at risk, and that’s why they brought us here, they beat us, handcuffed us, and blindfolded us.”

According to the families, they only removed the men’s blindfolds before they signed the statement that implicated them. Afterwards, their SIEDO interrogators requested that they explain to them “with gestures” how they had thrown the grenades. This performance was what the PGR released on television…

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mob Evicts Other Campaign Adherents in San Cristobal, Chiapas

On the morning of November 9, a group led by a man who is alleged to have been involved in the 1997 Acteal massacre chased a family of adherents to the Zapatista's Other Campaign off of the land where they've lived since 1973.

Illegal constructionThe confrontation started when the group began work to construct a road through land occupied by adherents to the Zapatista’s Other Campaign in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. The adherents consider the construction of the road to be a pretext to evict them because the construction crew was accompanied by surveyors who came to measure the property’s boundaries, ostensibly in order to sell the land. The land the adherents occupy is legally federal property and a protected zone because the Utrilla mansion, officially a historical monument, is located there. However, the property is registered with the Zapatistas’ Good Government Council in Oventik.

A bulldozer arrived at the Utrilla mansion at 7am yesterday morning accompanied by a group of about forty people, some of whom have violent pasts. According to Salvador Santiz Perez, an adherent to the Other Campaign who has lived with his 26-member family in the Utrilla mansion since 1973, the invading group felled eight trees without permission on federally protected land in order to construct a small road that would connect two roads that lead from the highway into the Cuxtitali neighborhood.
The kidnapper
Santiz Perez says that this is the latest in a series of confrontations provoked by this group, which doesn’t currently belong to any organization. He pointed out one man in particular who was photographing Other Campaign adherents who came to support his family. Santiz Perez says the man taking pictures kidnapped and beat him up in 2002. The man has never been prosecuted for the crime.

Domingo Lopez Angel, a local leader who supports the Santiz Perez family, alerted the police that a group of people began construction in the federally protected zone. Two municipal police arrived accompanied by Jose Alberto Corso, the Ecology Director from the Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection (Profepa in its Spanish initials). Upon inspecting the damage, Corso declared, “They knocked down the fence; they knocked down trees. This is a provocation. This is a monitored zone, and there haven been any permits issued in this zone for this sort of work.”

Marcos Santiz Shilon, Santiz Perez’s father and the leader of the group attempting to construct the road, admitted that he did not have permission to carry out the work. Santiz Shilon argued that he plans to purchase the land.

Santiz Shilon contracted a surveyor that was observed yesterday morning measuring the property’s boundaries. Santiz Perez says that this is not the first time Santiz Shilon has hired surveyors to measure the property. He claims Santiz Shilon wants to sell the land even though it isn’t his to sell. He says Santiz Shilon has already sold lots to various people for MX$40,000-$60,000 each, cheating them out of their money because he doesn’t hold the deed to the land. Some of the buyers have been able to construct houses on the property even though they don’t hold legal deeds to the land, but others have had to abandon their “property” because the purchase was not legal.

Statements from both Santiz Perez and San Cristobal’s northern zone’s official representative to the municipal government, Pedro Ramirez Lopez, indicate that Santiz Shilon is attempting to legalize his business of selling lots on the Utrilla property. Both men claim that Santiz Shilon has hired private surveyors to measure the land so that he can come to an agreement with the government to “regularize” (a Mexican term that refers to the legalization of squatted land) the land surrounding the Utrilla mansion, leaving the mansion to the government but developing (and selling, as Santiz Perez claims) the land in the immediate vicinity of the mansion.

A Tense Confrontation

While the Profepa agent was still assessing the situation, Santiz Shilon’s group swarmed the area, led by two local political bosses: northern zone representative Ramirez Lopez and Criselio Gomez Lopez, secretary of San Cristobal’s northern zone. Gomez Lopez declared that Santiz Perez’s family could be jailed without bail for occupying a house owned by the federal government. However, the political bosses are not officially government agents, and therefore have no direct power over arrests and bail. However, as the zone’s representative and secretary, they do have weekly meetings with government officials from all of the political parties. These meetings are called cabildos, and there the representatives negotiate benefits for themselves and the zones they represent in exchange for votes. They therefore do carry significant weight within the local government.

After the zone representative and secretary spoke, an unidentified member of Santiz Perez’s mob addressed the crowd. He stated, “Maybe, if the person living in that [Utrilla] house behaves himself, he’ll have an opportunity. If he behaves badly, like he did in 2000….” The man didn’t finish the sentence. But he continued, this time addressing Santiz Perez, “Cooperate and you’ll get a little lot where you can live with your children.”

Blocking Domingo's carSantiz Shilon and his supporters began to argue with Agent Corso from the Profepa. Then the entire crowd of at least forty people chased the Other Campaign adherents away from the police. The adherents decided to leave the property, but found that their cars (along with the police cars) had been blocked in by a truck belonging one of Santiz Shilon’s goons. The owner of the truck moved his vehicle, but by the time he did so the mob had descended upon the Other Campaign adherents and their cars. Most managed to get their vehicles off the property, but the mob focused its anger on Domingo Lopez Angel because he was supporting the Santiz Perez family instead of Santiz Shilon’s group. Blocked in by the entire mob—led by Santiz Shilon—Lopez Angel was forced out of his car to negotiate. After an intense argument in the Mayan language Tsotsil, the mob let Lopez Angel leave.

Santiz Perez says he will return to the Utrilla mansion and will defend it with his life, if that becomes necessary. “They can kill my body, but they can’t kill my soul,” he declared. Santiz Perez claims his father wants to kill him and his family.

For now, the Santiz Perez family has sought refuge in CIDESI, the local indigenous university that is also part of the Other Campaign.

The Other Campaign in San Cristobal remains on alert pending notice from the Zapatista’s Good Government Council in Oventik.

A Complicated History

The Utrilla property and the groups who are fighting over it have a long and complicated past.

Marcos Santiz Shilon and his family—including his son Salvador Santiz Perez—arrived on the Utrilla property in 1973. Local political bosses had expelled the family from their Chamula community for being evangelical Christians. Ermilio Dominguez, who owned the Utrilla property at the time, offered the family refuge in the Utrilla mansion in exchange for looking after the property.

At some point prior to 1994, the Dominguez family sold part of their land to the federal government, including the part where the Utrilla mansion sits. The federal government’s Tourism Development Fund (Fonatur in its Spanish initials) is responsible for the land and had long-term plans to develop the historical monument into a tourist zone, but in 1993 it informed the Santiz family that the property was “theirs” and that they could continue living and working there. This was a verbal agreement.

In 1994 when the Zapatistas staged their infamous uprising, other families came to the Utrilla property and staked their claims on the federal land, away from the Utrilla mansion. Given that an indigenous organization had declared war on the government, Fonatur decided that it was best to avoid conflict, and it allowed the family to continue to live in the mansion, which does not have any basic utilities such as electricity or running water. Santiz Perez is very clear that this verbal agreement with Fonatur never meant that the Santiz family owned the property. It meant that the family lived and worked there to protect and preserve the historical site, and it shared these goals with Fonatur.

Following the 1994 uprising, Santiz Perez’s father, Marcos Santiz Shilon, was decidedly anti-Zapatista. However, Santiz Perez says that Santiz Shilon took advantage of the uprising and named himself representative of the people living on the Utrilla property so that he could negotiate with the government. Santiz Shilon even made an official stamp for himself that contains the image of an armed Emiliano Zapata.

While acting as self-appointed representative of the recuperated lands, Santiz Shilon joined the Frente Cardenista political party. The other families who had taken advantage of the uprising to stake their claims on the federal land also jointed the Frente, and they flew the political party’s flag on the land. They used the Zapatista uprising as leverage to negotiate perks from the government, which was more than happy to dole out gifts in order to quell revolutionary sentiment amongst the poor and indigenous populations. Santiz Perez says they received a MX$70,000 fish farm project. He says that in addition to courses in managing a fish farm, the project also gave cash to the Frente members in order to start up their fish business. Santiz Perez claims that his father used part of this money to purchase a car.

Santiz Perez claims that he and others observed his father organizing meetings in preparation for the infamous Acteal massacre that left 45 unarmed people dead. Santiz Perez also says that on December 21, 1997, the night before the massacre, men in trucks arrived in the neighborhood looking for Santiz Shilon. According to Other Campaign adherents close to Santiz Perez, the men in trucks left for Chenalo (the county where Acteal is located) with Santiz Shilon and others from the Frente Cardenista. They were gone all day on December 22, 1997. When Santiz Shilon and the other local Frente Cardenista members returned, Santiz Perez and others confronted his father and asked him where he was during the massacre. Santiz Perez reports that his father replied, “We went over there because there was a problem.” Santiz Perez made an official statement against his father through the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center and Enlace Civil, arguing that if Santiz Shilon didn’t directly murder anybody during the massacre, he certainly helped those who committed the crime. As often happens in war—and especially in the low intensity war in Chiapas—this drew the battle lines between father and son.

Santiz Perez says that his father’s constant threats against his family worsened in 2000 when Santiz Perez kicked Santiz Shilon out of the mansion for swindling people out of their money by selling them the Utrilla land without a deed. The situation became violent in 2002, when Santiz Shilon and his followers began to attack the family living in the mansion. In that year Santiz Shilon sent word through his brother that he had a militia of eighty armed men. That was also the year that one of Santiz Shilon’s goons kidnapped and beat up Santiz Perez.

Santiz Perez argues that his father’s attacks are based in his hatred for the Zapatista National Liberation Army, and not in a family conflict. Indeed, when attempting to convince the municipal police, Profepa, and the northern zone’s representative and secretary that he deserved the land, not his son’s family, Santiz Shilon argued that he was a law-abiding citizen, while his son is “a Zapatista.” Santiz Perez says that the Utrilla mansion is registered with the Zapatista Good Government Council in Oventic, and is under their control as part of the land recuperated by the movement. He’s also publicly declared his intentions to turn the Utrilla property into a cultural, artistic, and political space for Zapatistas and the Other Campaign in San Cristobal de las Casas, known as La Otra Jovel. One of the family’s first actions in this regard was to use the space construct a massive paper mache Emiliano Zapata for a Zapatista event in the Oventik aguascalientes.

Possible Federal Intervention

The situation remains tense. Santiz Perez and his family have been displaced since yesterday afternoon when the mob ran them off their land. Neither Santiz Perez nor members of La Otra Jovel have been able to return to the Utrilla property to assess the situation there because of fears of violence. Members of the mob were observed photographing adherents’ license plates on the Utrilla property yesterday.

This morning an Other Campaign adherent observed Santiz Shilon entering the San Cristobal de las Casas municipal palace with Representative Ramirez Lopez and Secretary Gomez Lopez. The same adherent noted that the weekly cabildo meetings happen every Monday morning in the municipal palace. Subsequently, adherents to the Other Campaign in San Cristobal, including Santiz Perez, have stated their “certainty that there [in the cabildo meeting] they will request the municipal government’s support and intervention in negotiating and speeding up the eviction process” at the state and federal level, “given that they [Santiz Shilon and his group] argue that the building is federal property.” The adherents are concerned that Santiz Shilon will request federal intervention in the conflict.

More photos of the November 9 confrontation at the Utrilla mansion are available here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sali Eiler and Brad Will remembered on the Day of the Dead

In San Cristobal de las Casas, adherents to the Other Campaign set up an alter for our fallen comrades. Sali Grace Eiler and Brad Will's pictures were up there with Subcomandante Pedro, Comandante Ramona, Andres Aubry, Digna Ochoa, Che Guevara, and many others. I've published photos of the alter.

Sali and Brad's families wrote the following letters for the Day of the Dead. Chiapan activists passed out about 100 copies of the letters in the central plaza of San Cristobal where they set up the alter, and copies also went out over Other Campaign listservs.

From Sali's family:

Marcella "Sali" Grace Eiler
September 30, 1987—September 15, 2008

Sali is loved and cherished as a daughter to Barbara Healy and John Eiler, a stepdaughter to Catherine Eiler, a sister to Claire Eiler, Cavan Telford, and Erin Telford.

Sali was a citizen of our planet. Sali believed that the earth and the animals and people who inhabit it have the right to grow and thrive, and deserve respect.

Sali was young, beautiful, had a powerful heart and a deep passion for justice.
  • Sali supported animal rights, and fought against cruelty in animal experimentation.
  • Sali worked with "Food Not Bombs" in a number of North American cities, recovering food and turning it into hot meals available to anyone. She believed food is a right, not a privilege.
  • Sali worked with "Los Sobravivientes", teaching English to Central American torture survivors who had come to live in Oregon.
  • Sali worked with "Cascadia Forest Defenders" saving the last of the old growth tree forests in Oregon from logging.
  • Sali contributed to "Indymedia", a collective of independent media organizations and journalists offering grassroots coverage of news events in communities throughout the world.
  • Sali worked with "No Mas Muertes", a humanitarian movement that provides water, food and medical assistance to migrants walking across the Arizona desert.
  • Sali worked with "CIPO-RFM", a movement that promotes peaceful co-existance of autonomous, self sufficient communities and indigenous people, and defends the territorial, economic, social, political and cultural rights of those communities and individuals.
The brief outline above highlights issues that spoke to Sali. These are a piece of the whole. Sali was so much more. She was a singer, a banjo player, a dance teacher and performer, a band member of Cinzana, an accomplished artist in North America and Mexico. A wonderful cook and herbalist, a beloved daughter, sister and loyal friend to many. An inspiring humanitarian, a courageous woman of warmth, laughter and endless energy who believed anything was possible. Any change achievable. Any goal possible.

Marcella "Sali" Grace Eiler was raped and murdered on September 15, 2008. Our family and friends throughout North America and Mexico deeply mourn her loss. We feel the outpouring of love and support coming from Sali's people in Oaxaca, in Mexico, and across North America. We appreciate all that you have done and will do in Sali's memory.

Justice must be served in Sali's cruel and tragic death.

From Brad's family:

October 27 will mark the 2nd anniversary of Brad's death, just before the Day of the Dead celebration of fallen loved ones. We would like to take this opportunity to send our love and support to all of the other families who have lost loved ones and found themselves, like our family, at the mercy of the impunity that exists in Mexico.

Our family misses Brad desperately and his wonderful sense of humor. We are so proud of the his legacy, his efforts to help the downtrodden and his hope to give a voice to the voiceless.

Brad was filming in Oaxaca with the intention of doing a documentary based on the situation there. He was trying to expose the deaths that occurred to demonstrators and the lack of accountability by the authorities. What he was attempting to document is exactly what happened to him. He was shot by the paramilitaries and, since then, the authorities have attempted over and over again to ignore the facts and blame the innocent. The "investigation" that has been carried out at both the state and federal levels has treated the case (and Brad's life) with callous disregard. From the outset, there has been a concerted effort to "drop" the case for lack of "evidence". EVIDENCE - take a look at his video!! Is there any question where the shots came from? And now, to add insult to injury, the prosecutors are attempting to frame innocent people for his death. Many of those people that were near him at the time he was shot not only knew him, and loved him, and respected him BUT ALSO put their own lives at risk in an attempt to save him. We will not rest (nor will Brad) until justice is served!!

We thank you for your commitment to truth and we commend your efforts to remember those that gave their lives for their beliefs in justice.

The Will family