Declarations in the case of a June incident in Mexico that left 22 dead suggest that high-level military officials were aware of the situation and may have even ordered a cover-up, further fueling allegations that the victims were executed.
Officials close to the case told Animal Politico that soldiers involved in the incident initially declared that at least two generals were aware of the events that transpired at a warehouse in the municipality of Tlatlaya on June 30. The soldiers also reportedly stated that their superiors ordered them to cordon off the area where the incident took place to keep civilian officials from entering.
Two of the testimonies taken during an investigation conducted by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) indicate that soldiers were ordered to set up checkpoints around Tlatlaya to give their fellow soldiers “time to check the crime scene and get it ready.” One of the declarations in the case also stated that military personnel kept civilian officials from entering the area by telling them that the fighting was still going on, even though it had finished hours before, reported Animal Politico.
However, the soldiers changed their declarations after they received orders to fire their lawyers and only accept legal counsel from military-appointed attorneys, according to Animal Politico.
InSight Crime Analysis
If true, the soldiers’ initial statements support the hypothesis that what was officially described as a confrontation between military personnel and alleged members of the Guerreros Unidos criminal group was actually a massacre. The declarations suggest a cover-up that may have been ordered by high-level officials in order to disguise the incident as a shootout.
This version of the events is supported by the CNDH’s findings, which state that the army executed 15 of the 22 alleged criminals after seven were killed during the initial confrontation. The CNDH also determined that the crime scene had been altered and that two female witnesses were tortured and sexually harassed.
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This would not be the first time Mexican security forces have allegedly perpetrated human rights abuses in the context of Mexico’s heavily militarized drug war. The country’s defense ministry (Sedena) has previously reported a high number of alleged criminals killed in supposed “confrontations,” compared to a relatively small number of military personnel, a discrepancy that could point to extrajudicial killings. A 2013 Amnesty International report also condemned what it described as widespread abuses at the hands of Mexico’s security forces.
The more recent Iguala case, in which 43 student protesters disappeared, may also involve military personnel. According to a journalistic investigation, the military was aware of the attacks against the students, and researchers have hypothesized that the students’ bodies may have even been incinerated in military crematoriums.