The army is under investigation in connection with at least one extrajudicial killing in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, last month.
President López Obrador on Monday instructed army chief Luis Cresencio Sandoval to investigate a shootout between the army and a criminal gang in the northern border city that left 12 people dead on July 3.
His call for an investigation came after the newspaper El Universal published a video showing soldiers firing at a pickup truck on a dark street near the airport. Army vehicles previously came under fire by armed men in three pickup trucks, two of which fled.
Soldiers fired at least 243 shots at the third vehicle, the newspaper said. The footage it published came from a camera mounted on a soldier’s helmet. No military personnel were wounded or killed in the gun battle.
After the shooting stops, soldiers approach the pickup and see that at least one person in its bed isn’t dead. “He’s alive,” soldiers shout to which someone responds, “Fucking kill him.”
The person in the truck is believed to be one of three young men who had been kidnapped and were in the bed of the pickup with their hands and feet tied.
Two of the kidnapping victims died after receiving single gunshot wounds to their chests while the third man was killed by a single shot to the head. El Universal said that the shot was fired from a distance of just one to three meters.
The nine presumed gang members who were killed all had multiple gunshot wounds whereas the kidnapped men were only shot once each. That raises the possibility that not just one man but three were executed extrajudicially.
One of the three was 18-year-old Damián Jenovés Tercero, who had been living in Nuevo Laredo for six just months when he and his brother were abducted while walking home on June 24.
His father, Raúl Tercero, filed a complaint against the army on July 11 for the murder of his son. His other son was not in the truck where Damían Tercero died and his whereabouts are unknown, El Universal said.
Family members of the other slain kidnapping victims also filed homicide complaints against the army with the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
Speaking at his regular news conference on Monday, López Obrador said that an investigation was needed because his government doesn’t permit “finishing off” wounded suspects.
“El Universal reported a possible crime committed by a member of the army by finishing off a wounded man. There was a confrontation and it appears that there was an injured person, that’s what the newspaper said, and they [soldiers] were ordered to finish him off,” he said.
At the time of the incident, the army said in a report that 12 suspected gang members had been killed and there were no survivors that required medical assistance.
The president said that when he took office in late 2018, the military was already operating under clear instructions to ensure that human rights are respected and asserted that his administration has “strengthened” the directive to soldiers, marines and other military personnel.
“We have the support of the armed forces; both the navy minister and the national defense minister are vigilant so that there are no violations of human rights. That’s not the way to achieve peace,” López Obrador said.
Army spokesman Francisco Antonio Enríquez Rojas told El Universal that the army agreed with the president that an investigation needs to be carried out. However, the FGR – not the army itself – must conduct the investigation, he said.
“Article 57 of the military justice code says that whenever there is a civilian involved, it is up to the public prosecutor [the FGR] to carry out the investigation,” Enríquez said, adding that the army will cooperate completely with the probe.
El Universal reported that since the family members of the kidnapping victims filed their complaints against the army more than a month ago, they haven’t received any response from the FGR.
The newspaper said the FGR has not prepared reports about the events that occurred July 3 and has not summoned the military personnel involved, as the family members asked it to do.
Martín Alvarado, a lawyer for the families of the men who were kidnapped and killed, said the failure of authorities to provide a response can be interpreted as protection of the soldiers who allegedly ordered and committed the murder or murders.
“We’ve always known it; they [the authorities] have always protected each other. The Attorney General’s Office will never do anything against the soldiers. … They delay and obstruct the delivery of justice,” he said.
However, it appears that the Attorney General’s Office is now acting more quickly as a result of López Obrador’s call for an investigation as federal sources told El Universal that the FGR investigators have now begun looking at the case.
Mexico’s armed forces have been accused of a range of human rights violations including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture since they were deployed by former president Felipe Calderón to combat organized crime in late 2006.
López Obrador came to power promising a gradual withdrawal of the military from the nation’s streets but in May published a decree ordering the armed forces to continue carrying out public security tasks for another four years.
Source: El Universal (sp)