Mexico’s military is leading President Felipe Calderón’s war against the nation’s drug cartels, and Ciudad Juárez has emerged as one of the bloodiest battlegrounds. Nationwide, drug violence has claimed more than 25,000 lives since 2006—with government security forces accounting for an estimated 7% of the dead. In June alone, 103 police and soldiers were killed.
As the death toll rises, however, so have complaints about the military’s tactics in trying to break the drug cartels’ stranglehold on Mexican society. The human-rights office of the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juárez is located, is investigating some 465 cases of alleged abuse and torture of Mexican citizens by soldiers. Gustavo de la Rosa, the office’s ombudsman in Ciudad Juárez, says he knows of about 70 cases in which soldiers are alleged to have planted evidence, including some involving suitcases packed with marijuana.
Allegations of mistreatment of suspects have caught the eye of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees financial aid to Mexico for its war on drugs. In an internal report, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says it received allegations of serious human-rights violations in Ciudad Juárez last year. The report cites an unidentified young man picked up in El Paso who said he was arrested by the Mexican military in Ciudad Juárez and beaten and shocked. The man said he was released after the military concluded he had no useful information about trafficking, the report says.