A navy patrol in Nuevo Laredo. A navy patrol in Nuevo Laredo.

Military base opens its doors in search for missing in Tamaulipas

But family members of missing persons claim any evidence had been removed

A naval base in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, opened its doors yesterday to federal authorities and families of missing persons as an investigation continues into the disappearance of 36 people between February and May, but relatives of the missing called the event a mockery.

Officials from the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Enforced Disappearances, a division of the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), entered the facility in the border city’s Victoria neighborhood accompanied by victims’ family members, soldiers, Federal Police officers and other PGR personnel, the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Commission (CDHNL) said.

In a statement issued yesterday, the PGR said it had conducted inspections of military vehicles, weapons and radios, adding that the presence of “indirect victims, personnel of the Executive Committee for Attention to Victims and independent experts . . . guaranteed the transparency of the actions that were carried out.”

However, the PGR did not disclose whether its personnel had found anything of relevance to the investigation.

Some family members left disappointed. The wife of a man who disappeared in April said she was “disillusioned” because it felt as if they were visitors being given a tour. “I went in and they told me ‘this is the kitchen’ and ‘this is the dining room’ and ‘here is where they sleep.'”

She said patrol vehicles in which they wished to look for fingerprints of family members had been repainted and cleaned up.

The inspection of the base, she said, came too late. “They had time to paint, clean up the trucks and remove any kind of evidence.”

The United Nations (UN) said on May 30 that there were “strong indications” that federal security forces were responsible for the disappearance of 23 people in Nuevo Laredo between February and May 16, while the CDHNL said that it had documented at least 51 missing persons cases in which the navy was allegedly involved.

The day after the UN issued its statement, the PGR announced that it would investigate the disappearances, including any role the military might have played, but after finding the bodies of nine victims last month it said it had turned the focus of its investigation on to the Zetas drug cartel.

Before the PGR initiated its investigation, frustrated and dissatisfied relatives of the missing persons held protests to denounce the navy’s alleged involvement in the disappearances, including one that snarled traffic traveling across the border between Tamaulipas and Texas.

They also demanded that federal authorities search the naval barracks in Nuevo Laredo.

While that demand has now been met, CDHNL president Raymundo Ramos said yesterday that the inspection of the military base had come at least four months too late.

Amnesty International said on July 31 that investigators planned to visit naval bases previously but had given “advance warning” of the inspections, “thus alerting any potential suspects stationed there.” In the end, however, the visits didn’t go ahead due to violence in the area.

In the same news release, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said “the federal Attorney General’s office is losing crucial time in its investigations into these disappearances, which gives those suspected of criminal responsibility the chance to cover their tracks.”

Witnesses and victims’ family members have reported suffering threats, harassment, assaults and abductions after filing complaints with authorities, Amnesty International said.

Ramos also said that he and his family has been subjected to threats due to his involvement in the search for the missing persons.

The inspection of the navy base was the first time that such a search had been carried out at a military facility in Tamaulipas but it is not unprecedented at a national level.

Authorities in Guerrero entered an army base in that state after the disappearance of 43 teaching students in September 2014 after which they said nothing suspicious had been found.

Source: Milenio (sp)

Reader forum