IIn a recent meeting with Mexican government officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attributed the growing violence in the country to aggressive druglords, and announced that the United States would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Mexico against them. "The criminals and kingpins spreading violence,” she said, “are trying to corrode the foundations of law, order, friendship and trust between us that support our continent,"
Within Mexico, however, another picture of the violence is emerging, one that pits not the druglords but the federal government as the main cause. In a recent interview with America, Fr. Luis Arriage Valenzuela, S.J., director of a human rights center in Mexico, reports an explosion in human rights abuses and violence stemming from the growing militarization of the country. “When [Mexico’s President] Felipe Calderón Hinojosa started his administration in Dec 2006 he said his priority would be to combat drug dealers. And in that context, today the military goes out into the streets to fight. The problem is, they’re not trained for civil encounters. Their mentality is war, to combat an enemy; they can’t differentiate between interactions with civilians and military encounters. As a result, ordinary civilians are having their human rights violated.”
In the last year, Valenzuela’s center has received hundreds of human rights abuse cases, including civilians who are harassed, arrested, assaulted or tortured by federal soldiers for protesting government policies, or just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; and others who have been killed without explanation.