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Human rights groups fight torture in Mexico

Ibarra June 1, 1997
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- Rosario Ibarra's son disappeared in 1975. She says he was kidnapped by the Mexican army, the victim of widespread torture tactics carried out and orchestrated by the government.

"Torture, illegal detention and disappearances are inseparable (in Mexico)," she said, standing in her living room filled with pictures of her son.

Ibarra, like many others in Mexico, has dedicated her life to the cause of human rights and is fighting what she calls state-sponsored terrorism.

women cry

Findings by Mexican human rights groups read like a catalog of horrors: tortures by electrocution, beatings, drownings, systematic rapes and executions without trial or charges.

Wrote one survivor, "Torture makes you insane. It converts you into an instrument. They promise you life for killing you inside."

International human rights groups have condemned the reports of torture and arbitrary killings. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch blame the climate of violence on the fight against drug trafficking and an enduring tradition of police brutality.

The emergence of two guerrilla movements in the last three years in the southern states of Chiapas and Guerrero has provoked increasingly harsh measures by police and the military.

"Torture makes you insane. It converts you into an instrument. They promise you life for killing you inside."

-- Torture survivor

Thousands tortured annually


Father David Fernandez, a Jesuit priest in the region, claims there are more than 1,000 cases of torture a year.

"There is a willful and explicit intent to cover up and reduce the number of torture cases and complaints," he said.

He added that the abuse "is being used to halt peaceful political and social struggle."

But Dr. Luis de la Barreda of the government-sponsored commission for human rights in Mexico City argues that torture "torture is not at the top of the list of complaints. Complaints are very low."

Others disagree. Gonzalo Rosas, a Jesuit priest who survived a torture exhibition, said the abuse is routinely carried out by security forces and pro-government vigilantes in Chiapas to terrorize the population and discourage dissent.

For Ibarra, her determination to end the alleged abuse remains unwavering.

"Only one life saved would have been worth 20 years of struggle," she said.


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