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Human rights groups condemn violence, torture in Mexico

April 30, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Despite recent political and economic reform, the Mexican government continues to tolerate abuses such as torture by police and rural violence, two international human rights groups charged Tuesday.

The separate reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch-Americas come less than a week before President Clinton visits Mexico _ the first visit there by a U.S. leader in 30 years.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on Clinton to stress the importance of ``strengthening the rule of law in the country and the need to end impunity for political violence.″

Mexico’s Interior Ministry told The Associated Press on Tuesday it could not comment on the reports.

Amnesty International said its investigation of rights abuses shows that Mexico has failed to live up to its promise to eradicate police brutality.

``Torture and ill treatment by law enforcement officers in Mexico continue on a wide scale,″ the London-based group said.

``Impunity for perpetrators is the rule. ... No one has been sentenced for the crime of torture in Mexico despite thousands of complaints filed.″

The Amnesty report says common forms of torture include electric shocks, semi-asphyxiation with plastic bags, mock executions, death threats, beatings and rape.

Human Rights Watch documented cases in Sinaloa, a northwestern state plagued by drug corruption, and in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero _ southern states simmering with rebel activity and land disputes.

The group said authorities were complicitous in abuse committed by armed guards paid by landowners because they failed to prosecute crimes.

In one case in Chiapas, private guards _ ``with the obvious permission of police″ _ remained at the site of a protest, the group said. According to one witness, the guards fired repeatedly into the crowd, killing one man.

The report also said a Oaxaca man, Evaristo Peralta, was beaten by soldiers and state and federal police, blindfolded and taken away in a van. During his detention, he was interrogated about local rebels and threatened with death, the report said. He later was released without being charged.

Human Rights Watch credited President Ernesto Zedillo’s government with advocating ``profound″ democratic reforms for Mexico, which has been ruled for nearly seven decades by his Institutional Revolutionary Party.

``These changes, however, have coincided with growing instability in Mexico, stemming from economic crisis, at least two active guerrilla groups, a burgeoning illegal drug trade, and local bosses vying to retain power,″ the group said.

It warned that violence could undermine state and congressional elections set for July 6, by threatening the ability of opposition political groups to organize and compete fairly.

The group’s executive director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said that while Mexico moved to open its economy and allow political change, Zedillo has done little on human rights violations.

``There has not been much progress in this area,″ Vivanco said. ``Mexico is exactly the same as it was five years ago and the same as it was 100 years ago in this respect.″

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