Outsourcing Drug War Disappearances to Mexico

The other day I asked whether the US was complicit in any of the hundreds of official disappearances and tens of thousands of other disappearances propagated in Mexico’s drug war.

Friday, Spiegel published an interesting profile of a former DEA officer, Salvador Martinez, who ended up going to prison for trying to have his cousin’s killer murdered.

And sure enough, he describes allowing this kind of violence — even encouraging it — to happen. He describes leaving his counterparts in Ciudad Juárez to conduct torture.

In one of his first assignments, which he carried out together with the Mexican police, he was there when a commandant arrested a dealer. The police led the prisoner to a house on the edge of town. The officer hauled the prisoner to the bathroom, put his head in the toilet and flushed three times, says Martinez. The prisoner remained silent. The officer put a plastic bag over the prisoner’s head. “Who paid you? Who paid you, cabrón?” he demanded. Then, to Martinez, he said: “Have you seen enough?”

When he got into his car to leave, Martinez watched in the rearview mirror as a Mexican police officer took a small rod out of his car trunk. Martinez had seen a rod like that before; it was an electric cattle prod.

And he describes identifying suspects for Mexican cops to disappear.

He arrested a Mexican that he knew was working in the middle management of a cartel. He had no proof; he just knew it. After three weeks on trial, the court had to let the manager go free. So Martinez told the Mexican commandant what that man looked like and when he would be freed. After he crossed the border, a black minibus on the Mexican side stopped beside him and took him away.

“Alright,” says Martinez, taking a deep breath. So far he has laughed a lot on his journey through the memories. But he tells the next chapter without looking up, describing operations that weren’t recorded in any files.

“A lot of people disappear in Mexico,” he says. “They are buried where no one will find them. Some are eaten by tigers and some by sharks. There are also big tanks with acid in them.” He pauses for a long time between the sentences.

“We didn’t manage to catch all the bad guys. In those cases, we gave the Mexicans their names and said, ‘Do what you need to do.’ The Mexicans made those people disappear.”

Now, this guy appears to have been arrested in 1999. That is, this violence precedes the more recent disappearances Human Rights Watch and others have been documenting (and Juárez, at least, seems to be turning around finally).

But none of this is surprising.

As more and more people talk about the disappearances happening in Mexico, in a war that exists largely because American consumers create the demand that drives the violence, we should be careful not to blame it all on the Mexicans. Because we’re not just letting it happen, we’re asking for it to happen in some cases.

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5 Responses to Outsourcing Drug War Disappearances to Mexico

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @JonathanLanday Me too. But would GOP want to impeach for something involving real law? Precedent might hurt future GOP POTUS. @PGEddington
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emptywheel RT @clairecmc: Today I announced hearing in September to explore all aspects of military equipment and local police. http://t.co/rmS04Ia9D9
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emptywheel @NickBaumann Oh. Sorry. I misunderstood. I thought he was advocating us putting a chain through his dick and locking it down. No?
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emptywheel RT @samhusseini: People seem more upset that Netanyahu tweeted pics of Foley than he killed other journalists in Gaza. http://t.co/m0sTYOyL
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emptywheel Remember when equality came to a new state at least once a week and this summer looked hopeful? Thank you FL for a respite.
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emptywheel RT @lawfareblog: Jack Goldsmith: "Government Protection of Classified Information, August 2014" http://t.co/QBD4HnPJte
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emptywheel @RalstonReports @mattklewis They did say in first days that officer had had his faced bruised, may have said swollen too.
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bmaz RT @AntonioFrench: I spent the morning at the Board of Elections getting maps/data to start registering every black person in #Ferguson. ht…
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bmaz A vignette as to how prosecutors manipulate the grand jury to get indictments (when a white cop is not the defendant) http://t.co/D2ZyS0FRqT
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emptywheel RT @Popehat: I feel that Rush and I have gotten off on the wrong foot. Does Hallmark make any "let's be friends" cards featuring the Domini…
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emptywheel @csoghoian OK. Then I will leave you both to continue your mocking! @EdFelten
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emptywheel @EdFelten Is it possible the WH (Bush and Obama) have gone thru everyone who HAS cyber expertise who knows better? @csoghoian
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