Mexico: Government Acknowledges Responsibility for Massacres, Torture, Disappearances and Genocide

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Mexican authorities released a groundbreaking report over the weekend on the government's use of violent repression to crush its opponents during the 1960s-80s. The National Security Archive posted the full report today on the Mexico Project Web page.

The report by the Office of Special Prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, named by President Vicente Fox in 2002 to investigate past human rights crimes, accuses three Mexican presidents of a sustained policy of violence targeting armed guerrillas and student protesters alike, including the use of "massacres, forced disappearance, systematic torture, and genocide." The report makes clear that the abuses were not the work of individual military units or renegade officers, but official practice under Presidents Díaz Ordaz (1964-1970), Echeverría (1970-1976) and López Portillo (1976-1982).

The document's release marks the first time the Mexican government has accepted responsibility for waging a secret and illicit war against its perceived enemies. Unlike prior investigations into the Mexican "dirty war," the Special Prosecutor's report draws on thousands of secret records from the vaults of Mexican military, intelligence and police agencies. It traces for the first time the flow of orders from the President, the Defense Secretary and the Interior Ministry down to the soldiers and security agents in the field, and the returning flow of reports back to Mexico City. The official sources are complemented by testimonies and eyewitness accounts gathered by the investigators.

Last February, the National Security Archive posted an earlier draft of the report, when it became clear that the Fox government was hesitating to publish the official document. Today's version was released late on Friday night, November 17, at the start of a long weekend in Mexico, and posted on the website of the Mexican Attorney General's office. It is over 800 pages long, and contains photographs, declassified government records, and lengthy indexes to organizations and names.

The report includes chapters on the 1968 and 1971 student massacres in Mexico City, the counterinsurgency waged against armed guerrillas in Guerrero during the 1970s, and the broader attack on dissidence throughout the country over the almost two decades covered by the investigation. The report details with names 645 disappearances, 99 extrajudicial executions, and more than two thousand cases of torture, among other human rights violations documented.

"The Special Prosecutor's report release is a direct result of the demand of Mexican citizens to know what happened during the dirty war," Kate Doyle, Director of the Archive's Mexico Project, said today, "and is unique in the annals of Latin American truth commissions for the access investigators had to government records. In the past, not only did the authoritarian regime violently attack its opponents, it sought to cover up its role through lies, terror and intimidation for years afterwards. But while the report takes an important step toward reversing Mexico's legacy of impunity, the Fox administration failed in its attempts to prosecute those responsible for the crimes described in it. That job is left to the new government of Felipe Calderón, who takes office on December 1."

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