MEXICO CITY – More than three years of using the Mexican military against drug cartels has brought no improvement in public safety, the chairman of the independent National Human Rights Commission said, citing the case of Ciudad Juarez, the border metropolis that has become Mexico’s murder capital.
“What I can tell you is that we observe there has been no improvement in those places where there have been army operations,” Raul Plascencia said in an interview with radio journalist Joaquin Lopez Doriga.
Plascencia pointed to the situation in Ciudad Juarez, the scene of more than 4,000 gangland murders since January 2008, as “the worst benchmark of the failure.”
Though the Mexican army has been involved in the battle with drug traffickers since the mid-1970s, massive militarization of the conflict dates from December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon began assigning large numbers of troops to law-enforcement duties.
The number of military personnel devoted to the drug war has risen to nearly 50,000, including 8,000 deployed in Juarez, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
At roughly the midpoint of Calderon’s six-year term, the nationwide death toll from drug-related violence stands at more than 17,000.
Plascencia said use of the military to fight crime can be effective only if troops are “prepared and professionalized” to perform those tasks.
Asked to reflect on his first 100 days as chairman of the Human Rights Commission, he described the impunity enjoyed by organized crime as one of the biggest challenges.
He noted that the commission received 79 formal complaints last year about acts of aggression against journalists, including a dozen murders.
“They all share one characteristic: impunity, the lack of effective investigation,” Plascencia said.
Mexico is now the Western Hemisphere’s most dangerous country for journalists. EFE