Republished with permission from borderlandbeat.com:
This last installment of the Special Report on abuses committed by the [Mexican] military tells the story of “The Tecate 21”, a group of Baja California residents that a Federal Police convoy, with methodical violence, took from their homes on April 7, 2009, then transported them to the headquarters of the 28th Infantry Battalion, where they were subjected to extreme torture. They still face charges that they claim the PGR (Mexico’s Office of Attorney General) invented to portray them as narcos. However, their families organized to unify their defense and denounce for the umpteenth time the inhumane way in which federal institutions continue to fabricate guilty persons . . .
Tecate, B. C. (Proceso).- Paralyzed, unable to talk, Samuel regained an awareness that he was still alive when he heard the voices of four military men who were complaining among themselves: “You went too far! Now we have to get rid of him!”
He felt them take him down off the Hummer military vehicle and leave him on the desert sand. He was cold and far off he heard the sound of morning birds.
He breathed deeply. His lungs reacted; his heart, his mind…Although he could not yell because his mouth was covered with bandages, nor could he blink, since his eyes were taped shut, nor could he move his extremities, which were tied. His attempts to move alerted the military persons who intended to abandon him. “He’s alive!”, one of them yelled out.
They lifted him onto the Hummer again and returned him to the 28th Infantry Battalion headquarters, based in the community of Aguaje de la Tuna, in Tijuana.
Samuel Parra Quiroa, 39 years old, is the eldest of four brothers detained on April 7, 2009, in a showy Federal Police (PF) operation in Tecate. The other three are Cesar, 31 years old, and Abraan and Adan, both 24. These last three were taken with a group of 17 persons to a Tecate hotel fixed up as barracks, where they were presented to the media as responsible for an attack against two federal police officers. At dawn Wednesday morning they were transferred to Aguaje de la Tuna.
Ruth, sister of the Parra Quiroa brothers, tells of the apparent resurrection of Samuel, who remains confined in the El Hongo, Baja California, prison.
“My brother would have liked to narrate his experience in person (to Proceso), but when we asked the prison warden (Andres Chavez Martinez) to authorize you to go in to speak with the detainees, he stated it was forbidden to read that magazine in jail, much less to allow the reporters to enter the jail,” she explains.
“The Tecate 21”, as the case became known, were humiliated by federal agents when they were detained in the Rosita hotel; soldiers tortured them for six days at the base, they were confined for 80 days in the Tijuana Inn hotel and were finally imprisoned in El Hongo, all this in Baja California, but their file was consigned to a district court in Tepic, Nayarit.
They have been charged with attempted murder, organized crime, drug possession with intent to sell, unlawful possession of firearms and unlawful possession of ammunition.
When the soldiers attempted to leave Samuel’s body in the desert, barely two days of torture had passed.
Ruth: “Before they gave him up for dead, my brother tells me, he went through a very tough session; they had him on the floor and soldiers would jump on him from a height of about six feet. Their boots would land on his face, his nose, his body. They had already given him electric shocks, they had placed a bag on his face and hit him on the stomach and on his genitals; they would pull his ears with a sort of shoemaker’s awl. The worst thing was hearing his brothers cry out, he didn’t want to go on living.”
On April 11, after searching military and PGR facilities in looking for their loved ones, and with amparos (judicial protective orders) in hand, Ruth was the only relative of “the 21” who saw the detainees in Aguaje de la Tuna.
“I went in escorted by five soldiers. With me were my lawyer, the actuary and the defender for one of the detainees. They took us underground to (a room) with very high ceilings, about 25 feet (high), without windows, and in the back there was a closed door. Beside the closed door was a little table and a soldier.
“They prohibited me from talking to or touching my brothers. They started taking out the detainees one by one until I was able to see my brothers. It was the worst sight of my life– says Ruth, trying not to cry–: they were all beat up, more than when they appeared on TV. Abraan could not open his eyes, and the youngest, Adan, had a badly deformed face.”
Even though Ruth and her lawyer immediately notified the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) of the arbitrary detentions by the Federal Police, the agency at first limited itself to providing them guidance through the amparo process. If they “had the necessary elements to substantiate their claim,” they were told, they should go to Internal Control Organ of the federal Public Security Secretariat (SSP).
A year later, at the insistence of the victims’ families and Northeast Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights Director, Raul Ramirez Baena, the investigation was reopened as Complaint No. 2010/6294Q and is not yet finished.
The CNDH had accepted the versions given by the PGR (Attorney General) and the PF: that the arrests allowed (police) to break up a cell led by Francisco Javier Angulo, “El Pancho”, still at large, one of drug trafficker Teodoro Garcia Simental’s operators.
The night of April 7, the PGR exhibited the 21 detainees before the media. In addition, it showed off a variety of weapons, ammunition, bullet-proof vests and vehicles. They were accused of participating in the attack against federal police officers Cesar Becerra Mondragon and Ulises Hernandez, assigned to the Highways Section, who were wounded, but survived.
Beginning with their initial ministerial statement, which they gave at dawn on April 8 in Aguaje de la Tuna, 18 detainees maintained that the PF took them out of their homes and that, except for those of them that were together at that time, they didn’t know each other. Despite that, the police officers used incriminating statements that they had obtained, using torture, from the first three individuals arrested; Benjamin Guzman Quintanilla, “El Benji”, Javier Antonio Guerrero Cota, “El Moco”, and Mario Antonio Hernandez Romero, “El Chinola”.
To the initial criminal investigation (File No. AP/PGR/TKT/105/09) was added another investigation against municipal police officers Fabian Guerra Olivas, Ismael Sierra and Adan Cordero Gutierrez, whom the first three detainees accused of being their “protection.”
To strengthen the case they attributed them possession of 527 packages of marijuana, equivalent to 1,426 kilograms (3,137 lbs.), supposedly located by the military the night of April 8 in a home, after they got an anonymous tip that other suspects responsible for the attack against the federal police agents were hiding there.
The record in the file, of which this weekly has a copy, indicates that on April 8, at 5:00 a.m., the forensic investigator Carlos Enoch Escobar Ascencio examined the 21 detainees at the headquarters and certified that they had “recent traumatic type exterior injuries at the time of their medical legal examination.”
Although in their statements some of them expressed an interest in filing a formal complaint against their captors, there are documents in the file, signed by them, in which they waive their right to a “specialized medical psychological examination for cases of possible torture and/or mistreatment,” that is to say, the Istanbul Protocol. Contacted by Proceso, family members maintain they signed under threat.
After El Benji, El Moco and El Chinola were arrested following a pursuit by the municipal police– who are not given credit for their part in the investigation– the ones who were arrested next were Juan Jesus Alderete Rosas and Sixto Alderete Marquez, respectively son and brother of pottery exporter Juan Alderete Marquez. The businessman recalls:
“They went to the house afterwards for my brother. They took him out in my presence. They said that they only wanted my son and him to take their statements. They also took my brother’s pickup truck, a black Ford F-150, which we never saw again.”
According to the investigation file, the Alderetes fell into the hands of the PF along with Carlos Javier Abrego Beltran, Francisco Javier Copetillo Gonzalez, Angel de Jesus Copetillo Angulo, Ricardo Padilla Jimenez, Cristian Adan Hernandez Rodriguez and Everardo Gutierrez Diaz, when they tried to escape and went into Apartment A in the building located in Republica de Colombia 20, Colonia Miguel Aleman, where federal agents found an arsenal. In a trip through the Colonia, the reporter verified that this address does not exist.
“They did not beat up my son too much. –adds Alderete Marquez— When they would ask him something, he could not answer correctly because he’s from the U.S. Despite that, the authorities did not report his arrest immediately. A month later, staff from the U.S. consulate went to see him at the arraignment, and three years later to El Hongo prison… to take him a book that compares the Mexican and the gringo justice systems.”
Around 1800 hours (6:00 p.m.), the Parras, their cousin Jacobo Parra Medina and their friends Fidencio Valles Beltran and Jorge Alan Gaxiola Gutierrez, were arrested. They were taken violently from their homes. Ruth says:
“There were eight pickup trucks carrying police officers with their faces covered. They pointed weapons at the heads of my little nephews, (who are) one and two years old. They beat up my father, a little old man. They stole clothing, shoes, money, jackets, jewelry, everything they could take. They beat up my brothers with their rifles, Cesar was unconscious when they took him.”
“The federal police also ‘secured’ a 9mm pistol belonging to Cesar Parra and a red Pontiac Aztek station wagon in which, according to the police, the Parras and their friends were fleeing with the pistol. Guerrero Cota (“El Moco”) had pointed them out as drug pushers after he was beaten,” adds Ruth.
Organization against crime
Around 10:00 p.m., a PF convoy arrived at the home of the Marquez Ramos family. Jorge Luis recalls: “They took me out of my bed and told me I had been fingered. They pulled me by the hair and took me to a pickup where they had El Chinola, all beat up. He told them, ‘That’s not him,’ and they began to beat him. They made me kneel down, they threw dirt in my mouth and kicked me. My brother (Exalin Marquez Ramos), whom they were beating, too, yelled at them to leave me alone, to take him instead.”
Afterwards the convoy headed to Juan Carlos Santos Cruz’s house. “He was already in bed when the cops showed up with their noise, he looked out and they asked him about Jesus Salvador (Soto Gamez), about weapons and kidnapped persons. He told them there was nothing there, but if they wanted to search, to show him a search warrant. They began beating him up, they put a bag over his head and broke his toenails with a rifle,” tells Francisca Santos, his sister.
But the police report says that the Marquez Ramos (brothers) and Santos Cruz were on the street and, when they saw the patrol vehicles, they fled to a house previously pointed out by Guzman Quintanilla (El Benji), which supposedly turned out to be Santos Cruz’s house, where there was another arsenal.
That night they took Juan Carlos away half naked. To present him before the media, “they put a woman’s shirt on him,” adds Francisca, who asserts that the most serious torture was applied at the military facilities: “I was able to see my brother after the first 15 days of detention, they didn’t let me see him because he was (beat up) so bad. When I saw him, his eyes were still bleeding, his face was very swollen, and he had wounds on his arms and his back.”
“During the first hours of his arrest at the Rosita Hotel,” Francisca goes on, “some detainees heard the police interrogate a person that, instead of answering, would laugh. Before they transferred them to the military base, my brother saw a naked young man laid out on top of a table with his arms hanging down and he looked as if he was dead.”
With respect to that young man, Juan Alderete commented: “His name is Jonhatan Daniel Esparza Frausto. I learned about it because, in a letter that the CNDH sent me, in which they only gave me advice, they put his name instead of my son’s, along with my brother’s name. Afterwards, we linked the kid with posters that his family put up in the city, reporting him as disappeared or lost.”
Francisca sought out Jonhatan Daniel’s mother: “We learned that he was 17 years old and had mental problems. He spent his time on the streets and neighbors say that the federal police took him away.”
The young man’s mother didn’t push the CNDH to reopen her case on the forced disappearance (of her son). Juan Alderete did this after the relatives of 19 of the 21 detainees decided to join in a common defense strategy.
“In the first complaint with the PGR (File No. 4431/2011), for home invasion, deprivation of communication, torture, unlawful detention (detention without court order), and other charges, we informed (the authorities) of his disappearance. It was never investigated, but it’s in the same report,” explains Alderete.
On July 13 this year, the relatives of the 19 detainees went one step further. They decided to create the Foundation for the Defense of Civil Rights and Individual Guarantees (Fundacion de Defensa de Derechos Civiles y Garantias Individuales), which Alderete Marquez coordinates. One its first acts was to file a complaint with the PGR, No. 79/2012, demanding an investigation into the forced disappearance of the young man, (Jonhatan) Esparza.
The complaint alleging abuse of authority, false statements given before a judge, kidnapping, personal property damage, and other charges is directed against the PF officers that signed the arrest reports: Raul Jurado Hernandez, Ciro Alvarez Alfaro, Oscar Cazarez Alcantar and Felix Hernandez Xochititla, and against agents of the federal public ministry Cesar Manuel Aldame Munoz and Humberto Velazquez Villalvazo. “Those police officers need to explain what happened with this little boy,” demands the businessman.
The complaint, of which Proceso has a copy, contains a detailed analysis of the abuses allegedly committed by the named agents, the inconsistencies in the criminal investigation and the unlawful transfer to the 28th Infantry Battalion when the PGR has its own holding cells in Tijuana. The complaint also makes reference to the torture to which the first three suspects were allegedly subjected, and how they were released from detention in Tijuana for transfer to Tecate, where, it alleges, they were forced to incriminate themselves in three criminal investigations under state jurisdiction.
“”We’re making this complaint because it’s a question of justice, honor and civic duty. How is it that, despite the fact we have a Constitution, we have public servants that chew it up from top to bottom?!”, says an indignant Juan Alderete, who has managed to add to his cause more than 200 persons injured directly or indirectly by the April 7 arrests.
“There were minors, women and elderly persons who were threatened at gunpoint; a pregnant woman, the wife of Benjamin Guzman Quintanilla, lost her baby; their homes were looted; there are families who lost their principal means of support. Our loved ones, after three years, have not been able to get over the trauma of having been tortured. Recently, I learned about the torture on their ears… there were a huge number of atrocities, which are more painful because they were committed by federal authorities,” Alderete emphasizes.
This is the story that the businessman told to peace activist Javier Sicilia last August 11 when he came through Tijuana, before proposing the creation of a network of victims of the war on drugs in Baja California.
“Before this happened to my family, I didn’t know anything about human rights; I took care of my businesses and my immediate surroundings. But when I became aware of all the abuses that took place, I decided, with the other families, to create this organization whose only desire is for nobody else to suffer what we lived through,” says Juan Alderete.