American says he witnessed corruption in Mexican prison
Read the whole story here.
A U.S. citizen from the El Paso, Texas, area recently freed from a Mexican prison in Ciudad Juarez said he witnessed government corruption, heard the killing of a gang leader by federal police and personally watched a controversial police chief beat inmates with a two-by-four.
The firsthand account by Shohn Huckabee, 24, provides a rare view into life behind bars and reaffirms allegations made by thousands of Mexican prisoners, whose complaints often go nowhere. The allegations also raise questions about how much Mexico has done to improve its weak judicial system, one of the goals of U.S. aid under the Merida Initiative.
A spokesman for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said Thursday that the State Department should carefully vet “Merida funding in order to ensure that it is being used for its intended purposes and effectively,” and “should investigate the reported torture of Shohn Huckabee, and we look forward to receiving those findings.”
Huckabee spent nearly two years at the municipal prison known as Cereso after he and a friend, Carlos Quijas, also a U.S. citizen, were arrested while returning home from Juarez. Both were convicted of drug trafficking after Mexican soldiers said they discovered marijuana in their car, a charge both men denied.
Last September Huckabee was transferred to the United States under a U.S.-Mexico treaty. He was released last week after the U.S. Justice Department parole board determined that he had been tortured by Mexican authorities while in custody. On Thursday, Quijas was transferred to a U.S. prison.
Huckabee signed deportation papers stipulating that he must stay out of Mexico for 10 years, but he vowed: “I won’t ever return to Mexico. I don’t plan to visit there ever again because this could happen to anyone.”
Some policy analysts in Washington question whether the incidents described by Huckabee will further dampen U.S. support for continued aid to help Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers, including the training of federal police, and to strengthen its judicial system. Under terms of the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative aid package, Mexico could lose 15 percent of the aid if there is evidence of human rights violations. The State Department is required to issue a report in the first half of 2012 on whether Mexico is fulfilling its human rights requirements.
“This case raises the profile in Mexico and makes it harder for the State Department to argue that enough progress is made,” said Maureen Meyer, Mexico program director at the Washington Office on Latin America. “This ups the ante because this involves a U.S. citizen, and the Department of Justice determined that he was tortured.”
On Thursday, the Mexican federal police received a Black Hawk helicopter, the latest installment of U.S. aid.
Here’s an article and with the perspective from Huckabee’s family, with a video interview.
Two years ago, there was no Christmas celebration at the Huckabees’ home.
The family’s second-oldest son, Shohn, was arrested with a friend by the Mexican army and incarcerated in a Juárez prison for possession of marijuana. He claimed he was set up, beaten and tortured by soldiers, and he spent most of the last two years trying to get out.
Now he’s back home, just in time to help with the Christmas decorations.
This year Huckabee, 24, lost the legal battle to clear his name before the Mexican judicial system, but three months after being transferred to La Tuna federal prison, he was finally granted his freedom Friday.
Here’s the video:
Here’s a Wall Street Journal article on the same topic, with a little additional information, and links to earlier articles about Huckabee’s case.
The Mexican military didn’t respond to a request to comment on the U.S. torture accusation Tuesday.In a statement last year the army said it didn’t harm the men.”We categorically deny that soldiers use these methods and say their actions are in total adherence to the law,” they said. The Mexican president’s office declined to comment Tuesday on the case.
“My greatest frustration came from not getting any help from my congressman, Silvestre Reyes, or from the U.S. consulate in Juárez. The Mexican consulate in El Paso, Roberto Rodriguez, was actually more helpful than my own officials.”
Silvestre Reyes is able to help people in trouble in Mexico, when he wants to.
A Mexican citizen who is a distant relative of a prominent congressman from Texas was kidnapped last week in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and then released within three days after the victim’s immediate family paid ransom of $32,000.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, helped the Mexican authorities pursue the case, and an internal ICE memorandum, much of it confirmed in interviews with American officials, says the congressman, Representative Silvestre Reyes, facilitated the release.
That has led families of other victims of violence in Ciudad Juárez, a forbidding city with warring drug cartels and rampant murder rates, to say that Mr. Reyes, whose district is directly across the border, has not been nearly so responsive to their requests for help.
Shohn Huckabee talked of his nearly two-year ordeal at his Santa Teresa home Wednesday.
(Rudy Gutierrez/El Paso Times)
I’m glad this young man is home. I hope he recovers fully from his ordeal. I hope his information results in some (unlikely) changes in US and Mexican policies.