Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Juarez: Complaints About Extortion of Bar Owners by Federal Police

In the early Spring of 2009, after more than 7000 army troops took over municipal police functions in Juarez, there was a surge of complaints about abusive treatment. There was, however, no official mechanism to register and investigate such complaints, and citizens wishing to do so were frustrated by the absence of any authority that could deal with these. This in itself became an issue, resolved when Joint Operation Chihuahua created an office called the Program for the Resolution of Complaints About Joint Operation Chihuahua (Programa para la Atencion de Quejas y Denuncias del Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua).

A story by Hérika Martínez Prado this morning in Norte suggests that this office may be doing its part to deter abusive behavior.

Javier Gonzalez Mocken, in charge of the office, told reporters that in the past two weeks 13 complaints have been registered of cases in which federal agents are alleged to have extorted money from bar owners. In some cases federal agents, under the guise of searching for drugs, simply enter bars, ask for liquor licenses and other documents, and, it is alleged, demand cash payments. In other cases federal agents are alleged to have entered bars to search for drugs, planted drugs which are then "discovered," and then seek a cash settlement from the owner. Gonzalez said several agents accused of such crimes have been identified and are under investigation. Apparently many bar owners have joined an Alliance of Merchants of Wine and Liquor, and have used this organization to pressure for stronger protection against such abuse.

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