Mexico Confronts History of Government's 'Dirty War'

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A leaked draft of a Mexican government report accuses former presidents of planning and carrying out an anti-insurgency campaign from the 1960s to the 1980s. According to the report, soldiers carried out summary executions, raped women and set entire villages on fire.


A leaked copy of a Mexican government report accuses former presidents there of approving a dirty war against insurgents from the 1960s to the 1980s. The report was compiled from Mexican government and military documents and hasn't been officially released.

A draft was leaded to a Mexican magazine and was posted on the website of a U.S. Human Rights group. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports.


In chilling detail, the draft report describes an organized systematic campaign to wipe out, by any means necessary, the guerrilla insurgency in Mexican's rural heartland during the 1960s and 1970s.

The report was written at the behest of President Fox for the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past. It says in the introduction that, "The tactics of the state used against these national movements was outside the legal framework and led it to commit crimes against humanity which culminated in massacres, forced disappearances, systematic torture, war crimes, and genocide."

Ms. KATE DOYLE (Mexico Project for the National Security Archive): The report has chilling and stomach turning details about what the military did to destroy opposition; not only the armed opposition, but legal opposition as well. And the reason it's so important in Mexico today is because we've never seen this in black and white. We've never had an official account of what happened in black and white, much less an account based on the Mexican military's own cables and telegrams or the Mexican White House's own reports and memos.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kate Doyle is the Director of the Mexico Project for the National Security Archive.

Ms. DOYLE: The report describes the military use of death flights over the Pacific Ocean to drop their victims into the sea. They describe the method of the Mexican military in Guerrero to close-off a community in which they thought there were guerrilla forces, and basically starve the community to death to force the armed insurgents out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Guerrero section alone compromises 143 pages.

The draft report was submitted in December to a special prosecutor who is charged with investigating and bringing to justice those who took part in the campaign. It has been circulating among prominent writers and intellectuals in Mexico since then.

Despite that, most of the mainstream Mexican press has not reported on it. It took Doyle's US-based organization to publish a leaked version of the report its website on Sunday.

Ms. DOYLE: There's something redolent of the old Mexico when information was always in the control of a small and powerful elite and never in the hands of the citizens who needed it, that prompted us to put this report, even in its draft form, up on the web for everybody to see.

GARVIA-NAVARRO: The special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, has declined to talk about the report to NPR, but some of the victims of the Dirty war fear that the blunt report will be censored.

Jesus Martin del Campos'(ph) brother was killed in a student uprising in 1971.

MR. JESUS MARTIN DEL CAMPOS (Mexico): (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says the fact that this was published abroad and not here shows that there is political manipulation. I think there's some pressure brought to bear by the military with the excuse that the military is institutional and that they were only obeying orders.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The military's defense has always been that some rogue elements within the security services perpetrated the atrocities and that the repression was not policy. The special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, has tried a number of times to prosecute senior political figures that have been implicated in the Dirty war, including former President Luis Echeverria, to no avail.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.

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