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Cablegate: Drug War Brings Complaints of Arbitrary Detention; Mexican

VZCZCXRO9176
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHMC #0182/01 1012144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 102144Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL MONTERREY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2835
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 3794
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHMC/AMCONSUL MONTERREY 8277

149452
2008-04-10 21:44:00
08MONTERREY182
Consulate Monterrey
UNCLASSIFIED

VZCZCXRO9176
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHMC #0182/01 1012144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 102144Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL MONTERREY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2835
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 3794
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHMC/AMCONSUL MONTERREY 8277

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MONTERREY 000182

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PASS TO NORTHCOM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SNAR PGOV MX
SUBJECT: DRUG WAR BRINGS COMPLAINTS OF ARBITRARY DETENTION; MEXICAN
MILITARY NOT INVOLVED

MONTERREY 00000182 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary: The number of complaints of human rights
abuses in Nuevo Leon increased substantially in 2007 according
to the state human rights agency and a local NGO, and the
majority of these complaints stem from alleged arbitrary
detention. The alleged abuses appear to be perpetrated by state
and local police, not the Mexican military pursuing the drug
cartels. The State Commission has started a police training
program promoting greater human rights awareness and respect.
However, both the Commission and the NGO acknowledged that
investigations of complaints do not lead to repercussions for
security or justice officials. End Summary.

Human Rights Complaints Rise, but State Agency and NGO Differ on
the Statistics

2. (U) The Nuevo Leon State Commission on Human Rights (CEDH)
reports an increase in arbitrary detentions, but claims of
torture have not increased. CEDH was founded in 1992
essentially as a chapter of Mexico's National Human Rights
Commission, a semi-autonomous body that receives its funding
from the Mexican government. According to Paulo Pedro Cuellar
Martinez, CEDH's Public Relations Director, complaints of
arbitrary detention increased by about 35% from 2006 to 2007.
He reported that CEDH currently receives 11-23 complaints per
month of arbitrary detention, and that the majority of these
complaints are against state and local police. He also noted
that many individuals are presently detained for as long as 30
days, despite Mexican law which states a person cannot be held
for more than 48 hours without being charged for a crime. On
the other hand, he said that complaints of torture are minimal
-- about 1 per month -- compared to 1996-97 when the numbers
were much higher, due to a previous intensification in the "war
on drugs" at that time.

3. (SBU) Cuellar, and other CEDH officials, reported that the
increase in complaints of arbitrary detentions is directly
related to increased efforts to combat drug trafficking in the
state. The current wave of police sweeps taking place in and
around Monterrey has led to the arbitrary detention of many
people, mostly adolescent and young adult males. CEDH officials
believe this is the only negative consequence thus far of the
heightened security measures at the state and local level.

4. (SBU) Cuellar Martinez described CEDH as a moral authority
and frankly admitted that it "has no teeth" to force the
authorities to change their police practices. He also noted
that CEDH has an image problem because it is perceived by the
public as a defender of delinquents.

5. (U) CEDH recently signed an agreement with Nuevo Leon's
state police to provide police officers with human rights
training. They plan to train 10% of all mid-level officers as
human rights instructors, who will then train the remainder of
the police force. The training consists of 3 modules and a
total of 48 hours of instruction over a 3-month period.
Monterrey police will be the first to receive the course in
March and April. According to the Director of the Institute of
Human Rights Studies and Development, the educative branch of
CEDH, human rights training and workshops are part of the
Institute's regular curriculum. However, this is the first time
that security officials will be trained to become human rights
instructors, in order to create an institutional training basis
in human rights within the state's public security forces.

6. (SBU) In contrast, the NGO Citizens in Support of Human
Rights (CADHAC) found that the number of probable human rights
abuses trended sharply upwards in 2007, although the most
serious allegations were made in connection to common crime, not
operations against drug cartels. In 2006, CADHAC's
investigation determined that of 199 cases received, 20% were
potential human rights abuses. In the first half of 2007,
CADHAC received 43 cases and determined that 50% were human
rights abuses, deriving from claims of arbitrary detention and
torture. In the latter half of 2007, CADHAC received 116 cases,
58% of which appeared to be cases of human rights abuses. The
CADHAC figures suggest that from 2006 to 2007, the number of
probable human rights abuses more than doubled. (NOTE. CADHAC
is a Catholic NGO founded in 1993 that is dedicated to the
promotion of human rights in Nuevo Leon. CADHAC employs seven
full-time staff and some volunteers. It produces two reports
per year documenting the number and type of complaints it
receives and investigates. It regularly conducts prison visits
to check on conditions, holds human rights workshops, and
advocates on behalf of human rights victims. END NOTE.)

7. (SBU) The director of CADHAC, Sister Consuelo Morales,

MONTERREY 00000182 002.2 OF 003


confirmed that half or more of the probable human rights cases
they received in 2007 involved arbitrary detention or torture,
and that the majority of these were committed by state and local
police. Sister Morales stated that the detentions are lasting
up to 80 days now, as opposed to the 30 days reported by CEDH.
Of the torture cases, the complaints cited water boarding,
strangulation, and electrical shock. Poloff reviewed CADHAC
files and discerned that the allegations of torture were
connected to cases of common crime, such as robbery, but did not
include any complaints of torture in drug cartel cases. In
addition, in the latter half of 2007, CADHAC documented 26 cases
of probable human rights abuses, 25% of which included
complaints of torture or about 6-7 cases in all. In essence,
for the six month period, there was an average of about one
torture complaint per month, which tracks with CEDH's
statistics.

8. (SBU) Sister Morales maintained that public authorities had
proven unresponsive to complaints of human rights abuses. She
noted that CEDH's hands are tied by the Attorney General's
Office (PGR). She recounted an incident in 2006 in which the
state attorney general publicly accused CADHAC of delaying the
arrest of an alleged criminal. CADHAC responded by issuing a
press release specifying the constitutional laws and judicial
process the PGR was obligated to follow. According to Sister
Morales, the then president of CEDH later called her and thanked
her for standing up to the attorney general, adding that "the
PGR has me up against the wall and I can't do anything."

9. (SBU) Unlike the state agency CEDH, CADHAC perceives that
the increased security measures are leading to greater and more
serious human rights abuses. Sister Morales asserted that the
police sweeps being conducted are part of a strategy "to sow
fear" among the public, and that Nuevo Leon may be moving
towards becoming a police state. However, the cases documented
in CADHAC reports do not suggest that police are torturing drug
suspects. Rather, torture is rare and involves common
criminals. On the other hand, CADHAC also noted that many human
rights abuses are not reported, because there is little evidence
that such reports or complaints ever lead to restitution or
because the victims are afraid of repercussions.

Police Have Process to Investigate Allegations; Effectiveness
Unclear

10. (SBU) PolOff later met with Filiberto de la Garza Santos,
Subsecretary of the Nuevo Leon Police, regarding how complaints
of human rights abuses are handled by the police. De la Garza
reported that Nuevo Leon has a separate department, similar to
U.S. Internal Affairs, that investigates allegations of human
rights abuses. He said they have investigated a number of
cases, but did not comment on specific cases. In regards to the
issue of arbitrary detentions, De la Garza reported that the
number of complaints that they receive has been rising slowly,
much slower than the actual number of detentions. As to the
results of their investigations and whether any officials have
been sanctioned on the basis of human rights abuses, De la Garza
did not report the disciplining or firing of any officer.
However, he noted that sometimes both the ministerial police and
internal affairs investigate the same case and come to different
conclusions.

11. (U) In one recent case, state police arbitrarily detained
hundreds of people related to an attempted drug assassination.
Following the attempted execution of a police sergeant in Nuevo
Leon's State Security apparatus, nearly 400 people were
detained. According to CADHAC, it received many complaints
following the sweep from family members reporting that their
relative was picked up while eating or waiting to catch a bus in
the vicinity of the sweep with no evidence suggesting he/she was
engaged in any suspicious criminal activity that would warrant
detention. Nearly all of those detained were let go after a few
days and were charged about USD $48 (the standard fee the police
department applies for release regardless of whether a charge
was filed or not).

State and Local Police Focus on Gangs, Not Drug Cartels

12. (U) Most recent police sweeps have focused on cracking down
on gangs, rather than drug cartel members. That has led to more
negative media coverage and complaints from the public. In
response, Aldo Fasci, Nuevo Leon's Security Secretary, recently
stated that state security is taking preventative measures to
reduce the potential for an increase in gang-related crimes.
There are over 1500 known gangs in Nuevo Leon, and the fear is
that they will become increasingly involved in drug trafficking.

MONTERREY 00000182 003.2 OF 003


Fasci added that, should there be such an increase, he did not
want the public to be able to say that the police failed to take
any action to prevent it. Interestingly, one recent press
article regarding a police sweep that included the detention of
numerous minors also noted that the sweep was in response to
complaints from residents of drunkenness and disorderly behavior
among youths in the neighborhood.

Mexican Military Not Involved

13. (SBU) Despite an increased military presence in Nuevo Leon,
neither the CEDH nor CADHAC reported an increase in complaints
against the military. The military has had a presence in Nuevo
Leon for over a year, since Calderon sent 2,500 soldiers to
Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas in February 2007 to combat drug
trafficking in the region. Instead the complaints are directed
against the state and local police.

14. (SBU) Comment: It is clear from CEDH's and CADHAC's reports
that, at the very least, the number of arbitrary detentions is
increasing in Nuevo Leon. It would also appear that judicial
and security officials are acting with impunity. Although the
police department has a process in place to investigate
complaints of human rights abuses, it is unclear whether their
investigations ever result in the disciplining of an officer.
As for the recent wave of police sweeps, these appear to be for
show, in order to give the impression the police are doing
something substantive to fight crime, rather than a genuine
effort to detain suspected members of the drug cartels. In
addition, there does not yet seem to be a strong public backlash
against the sweeps or detentions. Indeed, in at least one case,
the police sweep was apparently prompted by residents
complaining of gang activity in the neighborhood. We also
disagree with CADHAC that the state and local governments are
seeking to sow fear in the war on drugs, as there have been few,
if any local operations against drug cartels. End Comment.

15. (U) This cable was cleared with U.S. Embassy Mexico.
WILLIAMSON

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