MEXICO CITY – Videos showing Leon police practicing torture techniques on a fellow officer and dragging another through vomit at the instruction of a U.S. adviser created an uproar Tuesday in Mexico, which has struggled to eliminate torture in law enforcement.
Two of the videos – broadcast by national television networks and displayed on newspaper Internet sites – show what Leon city Police Chief Carlos Tornero described as training for an elite unit that must face “real-life, high-stress situations,” such as kidnapping and torture by organized crime groups.
But many Mexicans saw a sinister side, especially at a moment when police and soldiers across the country are struggling with scandals over alleged abuses.
“They are teaching police … to torture!” read the headline in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma.
Human rights investigators in Guanajuato state, where Leon is located, are looking into the tapes, and the National Human Rights Commission also expressed concern.
One of the videos, first obtained by the newspaper El Heraldo de Leon, shows police appearing to squirt water up a man’s nose – a technique once notorious among Mexican police. Then they dunk his head in a hole said to be full of excrement and rats. The man gasps for air and moans repeatedly.
In another video, an unidentified English-speaking trainer has an exhausted agent roll into his own vomit. Other officers then drag him through the mess.
“These are no more than training exercises for certain situations, but I want to stress that we are not showing people how to use these methods,” Tornero said.