The National Guard offered 1 million pesos (US $50,300) to the families of two people killed in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, earlier this month in exchange for withdrawing charges against the security force who were involved in the deaths.
According to a report by the news website Animal Político, the army has also offered large sums of money to the family members of people killed by soldiers in recent months.
Published Wednesday, the report said the wife of Jorge Alberto Rivera Cardoza, a 42-year-old man who was shot dead by a member of the National Guard on April 8 as the security force was involved in a car chase, and family members of Martha Leticia Salinas Arriaga, who died after she was struck by the car Rivera was driving when he was killed, were both offered 1 million pesos.
To receive the money, they were asked to sign documents to authorize the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to close its investigation into the case.
After two men were killed by the army in Nuevo Laredo in February and March, and a Guatemalan man was shot dead by a soldier in Chiapas last month, the family members of the victims were also offered payments in exchange for dropping charges, Animal Político said.
“They offered me a million not to make a [criminal] complaint,” said Viridiana Promotor, the widow of Rivera, with whom she had two children.
She said she was in a government morgue waiting to receive the body of her slain husband when she was approached by a person in uniform who identified himself as a member of the National Guard and three other people who said they were officials with the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV), a federal agency.
Promotor said she attended several meetings with them and ended up signing the documents they asked her to sign. She said she was confused, didn’t know what she was signing and was led to believe that she would go to jail if she didn’t follow their instructions.
“They implied that if I reported [the guardsmen to authorities] I would go to jail for reporting them,” Promotor told Animal Político. “… I did what they told me to do because I thought I had to do it so they would give me the body,” she added.
Animal Político said that family members of Salinas, the pedestrian struck by Rivera’s car, also signed documents that authorized the withdrawal of charges against members of the National Guard.
But after burying her husband – who worked at a customs processing office in Nuevo Laredo not far from where he was killed – Promotor regretted her decision and didn’t attend an appointment at FGR offices at which she would have received a check for 1 million pesos.
“I want justice to be done, for those who did it [killed Rivera] to pay,” she said.
Promotor said her husband wasn’t involved in any illegal activities and there was no reason for him to be shot.
“Instead of helping us, they’re killing our family members, who are innocent people. My husband wasn’t involved in anything bad,” she said.
However, according to witnesses, guardsmen planted drugs, a firearm and two-way radios in Rivera’s car to make it appear that he was a criminal.
Promotor questioned why the National Guard would offer her 1 million pesos if in fact her husband was a criminal. She has now sought assistance from the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Commission to seek justice in the case and determine the identity of the guardsman who shot her husband and why he did what he did.
“… The question of why has affected me. Why [did it happen] if he wasn’t involved in anything bad. There is no explanation, I can’t give an answer,” said Promotor, who is concerned about how she will be able to support herself and her two young children in the absence of her husband.
Animal Político said it asked the National Guard why it had offered the payments to Promotor and the family of Salinas but didn’t receive a response.
There are also questions about why the army offered payments to the family members of a 26-year-old man and a 20-year-old man who were recently killed by soldiers in Nuevo Laredo. The army accused the former of being armed and the latter of acting aggressively prior to his death, even though he was traveling to an ultrasound appointment with his wife when he was killed, according to the Animal Político report.
The report said it was unknown how many cases have been resolved by offering payments to family members of victims, how much money the National Guard and the army have paid out and how many guardsmen and soldiers have avoided investigation.
However, the news website said it was able to determine that the army has compensated 187 victims in the last 10 years via an “opaque process that avoided the intervention of other institutions.”
Michael Chamberlin, a former director of compensation at CEAV, said he never witnessed money being paid out in exchange for people agreeing to drop charges against security force members.
“The law says that [people] have a right to truth, justice and compensation. I never saw a case like this,” he said, referring to the money offered to the families of Rivera and Salinas. “It should not be allowed to be like this.”
Source: Animal Político (sp)