HomeNewsAnalysisMexico Narco-Culture Takes an Ugly Turn in Lingerie

Mexico Narco-Culture Takes an Ugly Turn in Lingerie


Images of Mexican authorities humiliating suspected cartel members have been circulated on social media and picked up by some US media sites to the apparent delight of right-leaning press and violence-addled citizen journalists.

As reported by Breitbart News, the videos and photographs of Mexican arrestees being subjected to embarrassing and abusive treatment include male suspects forced to wear women's underwear and a female suspect with a plastic bag over her head.

According to the reports, the incidents are largely the work of a single marine commander, whom they identify as Erick Morales Guevara. In 2015 Morales Guevara was deployed in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, first in the border city of Reynosa and later in the beach town of Tampico. In both towns, he and his subordinates took aim at local leadership of the Gulf Cartel, and in turn inspired significant rancor from the organization.

Following allegations of corruption, he moved on to Michoacán, where he currently is deployed.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles 

While reaction from social media consumers was divided, Breitbart's reporting, which was carried out by "citizen journalists" from the northern states of Tamaulipas and Coahuila, was essentially positive:

Breitbart Texas spoke with various top officials with the Mexican Navy to learn about the exploits of ... Morales Guevara, a marine that will sometimes bend the rules but will get the job done... While the persons consulted for this article acknowledge that [Morales Guevara's] methods are unorthodox, and some not exactly legal, the results speak for themselves. Morales' team has been behind a series of important arrests along with cash, drug and weapon seizures, that severely impaired the operations of drug cartels, the sources said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Such behavior by arresting officers is not entirely uncommon. High-profile Mexican suspects are typically paraded before the camera when taken into custody, and their faces occasionally show bruises. And the positive reaction from Breitbart and others on social media shows that there is clearly an appetite for public denigration of organized crime figures.

To a certain extent, this desire for criminals' degradation is understandable. For decades, Mexico's largest criminal groups have made a mockery of the nation's public institutions, intimidating everyone from government agents to reporters to teachers.

The same groups have often attacked civilians with total impunity. For anyone with an interest in the integrity of Mexico's democratic society, this longstanding state of affairs is profoundly frustrating, even humiliating, and seeing the figures responsible for it similarly humiliated helps alleviate the sense of impotence.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights 

But the natural desire for turnabout should not be confused with policies that will address the causes of insecurity. On the contrary, this overly macho approach, based on the idea that the strongest side inevitably wins, is better suited to a cheap action movie than real life. Mexico's problems demand much more than this narrow, misguided conception of strength: they require intellectual creativity, patience, and willpower.

While there is a substantial difference between dressing a suspect up in women's underwear and murdering him, dehumanizing suspected criminals is a slippery slope that can lead to more consequential abuses.

In a democracy, respect for human rights should be upheld even when dealing with the nation's most dangerous criminals. For years, Mexico has struggled to prevent abuses in its conduct of security operations. Cases like the Ayotzinapa student disappearances and the Tlatlaya massacre have gravely undermined the current government's international standing and its popular support within Mexico.

Even before the Enrique Peña Nieto administration came to power, NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had provided detailed reports on all manner of violations by security officials in Mexico, from rape and torture to disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

While there is a substantial difference between dressing a suspect up in women's underwear and murdering him, dehumanizing suspected criminals is a slippery slope that can lead to more consequential abuses. Regardless of where a given action lies on that slope, the government's pattern of abuses reflects a deep-seated defect that should be resisted in all its forms.

Even beyond the issue of human rights abuses, this willingness to dehumanize suspects is counterproductive. In the short term, it can interfere with authorities' ability to build source networks, and presumably complicates efforts to interrogate arrestees. It feeds into the abusive policies -- mass arrests and widespread pretrial jailing --that have contributed to overcrowding in Mexico's jails.

SEE ALSO: InDepth: NarcoCulture 

In the long run, this dehumanization creates enduring suspicions of police bodies among the very communities whose cooperation is most needed.

There is some surface logic to the argument that abusing arrestees has a powerful propaganda value. Demonstrating that gangsters are not invulnerable supermen has the potential to erode public fear of the cartels, making it more difficult for them to operate.

But, apart from the question of legality, there is no real evidence supporting the effectiveness of human rights abuses as a law enforcement tool. Rather than being an unorthodox way of undermining gangland mystique, it is a needless concession to collective fear and anger. It is a reflection of the worst human impulses that should be condemned rather than celebrated.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Amid government inaction, Indigenous communities in the highlands of Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas are throwing their support behind a…

MEXICO / 24 AUG 2011

Mexico's state oil company Pemex counted 32 illegal taps on their liquefied gas pipelines so far this year, equivalent to…

EL MAYO / 14 APR 2013

In one indication that the Sinaloa Cartel may be wary of attracting federal government attention back to Tijuana, one of…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…