Human Rights Abuses Not Just Guatemala's Problem

Guatemalan security forces and those they protect may be getting away with murder, but they are not alone.

In Mexico, cases of torture and murder at the hands of police and other security officers are on the rise, according to a report released last week by Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization. And in most cases, the violence - often against the weakest of Mexican society, including Indians, women, political opposition members, and religious minorities - goes unpunished.

''In one documented case after another, those officials who commit torture or political killings or arbitrarily detain innocent civilians escape justice,'' says Amnesty's Assistant Secretary-General Derek Evans.

To back up its claim of increasing murder and torture at the hands of officials, the Amnesty report documents 40 cases this year of either extrajudicial execution or arbitrary killings by security forces, and 35 cases of torture.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretariat immediately issued a statement calling Amnesty's findings ''exaggerated.'' But other officials, including some in a position to know about Mexico's human rights abuses, were more open to the respected organization's findings and recommendations - and sided with Amnesty on the problem of official impunity.

''We are doing our job, making our recommendations to authorities,'' said Jorge Madrazo Cuellar, president of Mexico's National Human Rights Commission, at a press conference responding to the Amnesty report. ''But authorities are indifferent and fail to do their jobs.''

While agreeing that human rights violations in general have risen this year, Mr. Madrazo challenged the finding that torture has increased. On the other hand, he said the problem of abduction, often for political purposes, is actually worse than the Amnesty report indicates. And in the clearest sign that he appreciates the boost international pressure can give his work, Madrazo said he would travel to London next year to discuss with Amnesty officials how their organization can help the commission improve Mexico's human rights record.

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