Tlatlaya Massacre and U.S.Military Support

Warehouse scene after soldiers massacre 22 in Tlatlaya

Warehouse scene after soldiers massacre 22 in Tlatlaya

By: Laura Carlsen

A few weeks ago and for the second time, the Sedena [1] denied a request for access to information that asked for documentation related to training given in the United States to members of the 102nd Battalion.

We remember that the 102nd Battalion leapt to fame, or infamy, after the Tlatlaya Massacre, where 22 youths lost their lives at the hands of members of this Infantry unit. One day after the June 30, 2014 massacre, Sedena issued a communiqué announcing that 22 criminals died in a confrontation in which no armed forces member was killed. Thanks to the investigations of national and international journalists and the great valor of witnesses that told what happened that night, we now know that probably the majority of the victims were executed after surrendering to the Army.

By declaring the non-existence of such documents, the offices of the armed forces attempt to close a bi-national investigation that seeks to bring to public light not only the facts about Tlatlaya, but also the theme of military cooperation with the Pentagon.

The issue is relevant for many reasons. Documents declassified by the National Security Archives, an independent project, show that the Pentagon has been very pending about the Tlatlaya case. In a report dated October 15, 2014, it reads: “Sedena is now investigating the commander (a general on the Estado Mayor) of the military zone in charge of the 102nd Infantry Battalion, and adds: “if he was implicated in a grave human rights violation, the entire military zone and the 10,000 personnel members would not be able to receive U.S. assistance.”

When it is established in the Tlatlaya case —or any other— that a Mexican unit has incurred grave human rights violations, the United States government by law is obligated to suspend assistance to this unit. A January 12 report from the Northern Command confirmed that the 102nd Battalion would not be able to receive assistance.

Nevertheless, the issue stayed at that level. Instead of questioning the military person in charge at Tlatlaya, General José Luis Sánchez León, as part of an investigation of the chain of command, he was removed from his charge and sent to Jalisco. The maneuver on the part of Sedena’s high command, far from relieving suspicions, reinforced the conclusion that the Tlatlaya massacre was not exclusively the fault of a few undisciplined soldiers, but rather the foreseeable result of the modus operandi of the armed forces in the drug war.

A discovery by lawyers from the Pro Human Rights Center — the legal representative of one of the Tlatlaya witnesses – corroborated this hypothesis. In its report on Tlatlaya one year after the events, the center cited the Sedena’s “Order of Relief and Designation of Command” that says: “The troops must operate massively at night and reduce activity in the day for the purpose of taking out (killing) criminals when it’s dark…” It’s dated June 11, 2014 –a few weeks before the massacre.

Mario Patrón, the Center’s director, emphasizes the importance of the Order: “This is convincing evidence that to the Army we are in a state of emergency and a context of informal, undeclared war and, therefore, they order their members to take out criminals.”

In hearings held at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) this month on extrajudicial executions, national and international organizations presented data about this undeclared state of emergency: more than 10 or 15 civilians to each security agent died in confrontations, more than 4,000 civilian deaths at the hands of the armed forces between December 2006 and December 31, 2014; 3,967 civilians and 209 military members died between 2007 and 2014.

The evidence that the Army vindicates the practice of extrajudicial executions from the high commanders ought to be a parting of waters in the war against drugs. It’s not an isolated act. There are serious questions about the Army’s role in Iguala —its presence was already established at the scene of the events, as well as its negligence in protecting the students from the attacks, and evidence exists of complicity and active participation. The investigations into extrajudicial executions in Apatzingán, Tanhuato and Zacatecas are added to the emblematic Tlatlaya Massacre and undo the version that they are anomalies.

Despite the evidence, the Mexican government as much as the U.S. government continue to defend their war by restricting the responsibility for Tlatlaya to 7 soldiers that now are 3, since 4 were released due to irregularities in their cases. The suspension of U.S. aid ought to be extended to all the armed forces. Not only do cases of grave rights violations accumulate, but the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other organizations and instances have also issued formal recommendations for the full withdrawal of the armed forces from public security tasks.

But one must not forget that this war was imported from the United States and has counted on its unconditional support from the beginning. To the Pentagon, it’s a key piece for its hegemony in North America. With the Merida Initiative, the United States’ military-security complex has attained a level of interference in Mexico unprecedented in history. The militarization of the drug war is a big business, the construction of a buffer zone and border control, and is also the protection of its investments under the Free Trade Agreement. Within this framework of interests, the war must be permanent, cost Mexican society what it may.

The intrinsic hypocrisy in being an associate in the war and a self-appointed defender of human rights in Mexico was seen a little while ago, when newspapers announced that the United States government decided to withhold $5 million dollars from the Merida Initiative (MI) because of not being satisfied with the Mexican government’s efforts in the area of human rights. This announcement followed the decision to send funds in addition to the quantity originally requested to the MI, to the same security forces accused of incurring the violations, which, it seems, came out of the game with net profits.

The other reason that human rights organizations in both countries continue investigating the Tlatlaya case and its link with Washington has to do with the type of training that Mexican soldiers and police receive at the Northern Command, the School of the Americas and here in Mexico. In its decision to withhold information about training in the U.S., the Sedena argued that: “the training that military personnel from the 102nd Infantry Battalion received bore no relation to the acts that occurred in said locality as the (request for information) erroneously sought to assert.”

But, how can we be sure? The state of emergency that the Pro Center points to is the description of the United States war in Iraq, the model used in recent years for the training of Mexican officials in Colorado Springs. It resulted in some 150,000 civilian deaths. No one has been able to explain why a model of the war against terrorism that increased violence in the Middle East is now deployed in Mexico, when not a single threat on the part of international terrorism has been documented here, but ample documentation of acts of terror and human rights violations on the part of the State do exist.

The United States government is immersed in human rights scandals like the Doctors without Borders attack in Afghanistan, the use of torture and the killing of civilians with drones. It’s a bad teacher for Mexico.

The Tlatlaya case shows the open contradiction between promoting war and supporting human rights principles. It is one or the other. And the U.S. and Mexican governments bet on war. Now for citizens on both sides of the border, the task is to stop them.


[1] Sedena is the Spanish acronym for Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense.


Originally Published in Spanish by Desinformemonos

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Tuesday, November 3, 2015



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: