The head of the Internal Affairs Unit of the National Guard, the military-police corporation born under the current Government, is a military man linked to cases of torture. This is the retired Brigadier General David Enrique Velarde Sigüenza, who took office in January this year. Appointed by the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Velarde previously commanded the defunct Federal Military Judicial Police (PJFM), an investigative arm of the Military Prosecutor’s Office. Under his command, PJFM agents were charged with torture, arbitrary detention and illegal detention.
Controversial since its advent, the guard, which is now two years in operation, was born as a hybrid between civilian and military. From the beginning, the opposition and civil society organizations criticized that its appearance actually deepened the militarization of public security in Mexico, a process that began during the government of Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and generalized during those of Felipe Calderón (2006). -2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). In these 18 years, the Army has taken charge of security in ever larger areas of the territory. At the same time, citizen complaints about abuses by the military have increased.
Generating counterweights to the hierarchy of the National Guard arose as well as a demand from the Government. Forgotten in the first drafts of the corporation law, the Internal Affairs Unit appeared due to pressure from the opposition. As was the case with the defunct Federal Police, the president would have the power to appoint its owner. Its autonomy is unknown to date. In cases of alleged malpractice of its personnel, the corporation usually points out that the commander of the guard, retired General Luis Rodríguez Bucio, “instructs” or “orders” the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate.
Velarde came to office on January 16 of this year after passing through the ministerial police of the Quintana Roo Prosecutor’s Office. Controversial figure, the general has spent good art of his career in the PJFM. In the registry of Public Servants of the Ministry of Public Function, Velarde appears as commander of the corporation from January 2012 to February 2014. Specialized sources in the military world consulted by EL PAÍS, however, point out that his position in the leadership of the judiciary had come, at least on an interim basis, since 2009. For the Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center, Velarde’s appearance in the National Guard is very worrying. “That ex-military personnel possibly implicated in human rights violations are in the corporation worries us,” said a spokesman.
It was just in 2009 when the shameful case of the Death Squad exploded. In the midst of the Army’s offensive against organized crime, soldiers from a Chihuahua garrison led by their major, one of the most senior officers in the barracks, allegedly disappeared or murdered at least seven people. Warned, PJFM agents commanded by Velarde arrived at the garrison and detained two dozen soldiers. The major and two others later denounced torture committed by the PJFM agents and accused Velarde of fabricating an anonymous complaint against them.
In those years, accusations against PJFM agents were relatively common. In 2011, a dozen soldiers attached to the Saltillo battalion, the capital of Coahuila, indicated that members of the PJFM held them for days and tortured them to accept an accusation of working with the criminal group Los Zetas. This case was documented by EL PAÍS and detailed in the La Lista podcast, broadcast last year.
Over the years, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has also detected other cases of torture allegedly committed by PJFM agents during the Velarde years. In a report released in 2018, the ombudsman’s office found that the investigative arm of the military prosecution illegally tortured and detained a corporal, a sergeant and a second lieutenant attached to a Durango barracks in January 2013. The military stated that the PJFM agents forced them to confess that they worked for organized crime. In another published last year, the CNDH proved the torture committed by elements of the corporation against a soldier in Michoacán in April 2010. PJFM agents accused him of working for La Familia Michoacana. They held him for 17 days, during which time they gave him blows to the whole body, slaps and electric shocks to his feet and ankles.
Outside the PJFM, Velarde assumed command of an armored regiment on the outskirts of the Altiplano prison, the maximum security prison of Almoloya de Juárez, in the State of Mexico. According to journalist Juan Veledíaz in the magazine Process In July 2015, the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) considered that Velarde was the military man responsible for the “perimeter security of that prison.” It was during his watch that Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and his henchmen dug a tunnel under his cell to a house several meters from the prison. El Chapo escaped. Veledíaz explained that Velarde’s barracks were located just a few hundred meters from the house where the drug trafficker’s tunnel ended.
Asked about it when he assumed the leadership of the ministerial police of the Quintana Roo Prosecutor’s Office in 2018, Velarde replied: “It’s the internet. If I upload Elvis Presley, it will remain in computer memory forever. My job was to be the investigating police officer of the Mexican Army, I have never been in the federal sphere, in prison security. What is the reality? I was close to the population, because I had a tank training center. My activity was to train soldiers in the driving and handling of tanks ”.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.