A suspect in the 2010 killings of three people connected to the US consulate in Juarez has claimed he was tortured after his arrest, drawing attention to the brutal tactics used by Mexico’s security forces as they fight the drug war.
Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, an alleged leader of Juarez’s Barrio Azteca gang, said agents took him to a warehouse after arresting him with his wife in November 2010, reported El Paso Times. There, they stripped him naked, administered electric shocks to his testicles, hung him by his arms and beat him, while his wife was tortured and raped in another room, he said.
According to a motion filed in the US District Court in El Paso, Gallegos and his wife were flown to Mexico City the next day, where he was tortured for two more days before giving a confession to the FBI. He was extradited to the US, where he is awaiting trial on multiple charges related to the murders.
Gallegos has requested the federal court throw out his statements to the FBI because they were a result of torture and “psychological pressure.”
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Mexican security forces have long faced allegations of abuse, charges that escalated under the presidency of Felipe Calderon. In a 2011 report, US NGO Human Rights Watch reported finding evidence of widespread detainee torture under his tenure, facilitated by statutes such as “arraigo”, which allows authorities to hold suspects for up to 80 days without charge.
Allegations of this type of abuse have been particularly common in Juarez, and, if true, Gallegos’ case provides another example of the dark face of policing in the city. Police brutality has become an even more polemical issue in the region since the 2011 arrival of police chief Julian Leyzaola, who had been dismissed from his previous position as Tijuana’s secretary of public safety over human rights concerns.
Leyzaola’s stint in Juarez has coincided with plummeting rates of murder, extortion and kidnapping, but has also been characterized by accusations of extrajudicial killings, beatings in custody, and the indiscriminate detention of people who are poor, or who “look wrong.”
While, Gallegos’ allegations suggest abusive methods did not arrive with Leyzaola, the fact that such a controversial figure continues to be deployed to violent areas hints that the sort law enforcement brutality Gallegos describes continues to receive tacit official support.