On June 19, Mexican federal police opened fire during a confrontation with protesting teachers and their supporters in the small town of Nochixtlan in the southern state of Oaxaca. At least ten civilians were killed in the violence; the clashes left many injured.
The Federal Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo declared that the police at the protest had been ambushed, and opened fire only after coming under attack. At the same time, the National Security Commission had to reverse an earlier statement that all the police deployed at the site were unarmed, as media images emerged of federal police firing their weapons at protestors.
A newspaper columnist with El Financiero pointedly asked, “Can we believe the government?” The column recalled two cases last year—in Tanhuato and Apatzingan—in which the official version of federal police shootings of civilians was called into doubt.
But in Mexico, skepticism about the official version of events is hardly unusual, and often warranted.
On the latest episode of our podcast Talking Justice, host Jim Goldston of the Open Society Justice Initiative reports from Mexico City on what he calls Mexico’s crisis of impunity. He talks with Mexican human rights activist José Antonio Guevara about a new report that seeks a way forward.
The report, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico, analyzes the violence that has swept the country since 2006, when the government first deployed the armed forces in the fight against organized crime.
It concludes that the level of murders, enforced disappearances, and torture—carried out by both government forces and by the Zetas drug cartel—may rise to the level of crimes against humanity under international law. It accuses successive governments of almost completely failing to ensure accountability for atrocity crimes, due primarily to political obstruction.
Given the dismal record, Undeniable Atrocities calls on Mexico to create an internationalized investigative body, with the power to prosecute both atrocity crimes and corruption. The Mexican government has said that no new steps are needed.
Listen to our podcast and see what you think.