U.S. cuts funds to Mexico for human-rights abuses
MEXICO CITY - The U.S. government punished Mexico on Friday for human-rights abuses in its war against drug cartels, cutting $26 million from an upcoming $175 million aid payment, and demanded that Mexican soldiers be tried in civilian courts.
It is the first time the U.S. State Department has withheld funds over human-rights abuses since launching the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative aid program in 2008.
The decision comes amid a growing record of killings and torture by Mexico’s military, which has taken a leading role in Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s efforts against drug cartels. At least 21,000 people have died in drug-related violence since the crackdown began in December 2006.
As The Arizona Republic reported on Sunday, complaints of abuse by Mexican soldiers are soaring as the fighting continues, from 206 complaints in 2006 to 1,833 in 2009. The number of “grave violations” by soldiers confirmed by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission - usually involving death, torture or rape - went from zero in 2006 to 30 in 2009.
The Obama administration wants Mexico to try soldiers accused of abuses in civilian courts, strengthen its laws against human-rights violations and establish ways to give citizens groups a greater say in the anti-drug strategies, said Harry Edwards, a spokesman for the State Department.