MEXICO CITY — Juan Carlos García Cortés used to be operating errands in Mexico City on his moped when a taxi reduce him off and two males jumped out. They shoved him within the again, threw a jacket over his head and started beating him.
Mr. García’s abductors weren’t street-level criminals — they have been contributors of Mexico City’s newly created elite police unit tasked with fighting kidnapping and extortion, the very crimes inflicted on Mr. García.
After beating Mr. García, the officials threatened to fee him with murder if he didn’t pay them 50,000 pesos, about $2,500 greenbacks, in line with depositions from the García circle of relatives and a proper grievance filed with the legal professional normal’s place of business. It used to be greater than he earned in 8 months at a taco stand the place he labored.
Mexico has lengthy had main issues of corruption inside its police forces. However, Mexico City’s bold mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, a best contender to be successful the rustic’s president, made stamping out reliable corruption in her personal drive a concern.
In June 2020, simply over a 12 months and a part after taking place of business, she declared victory: “All of those practices involving torture, illegality, et cetera, have been totally eliminated,” Ms. Sheinbaum mentioned at a information convention.
Yet Mr. García’s ordeal came about in 2021.
The episode is amongst 1000’s of misconduct claims reported by way of Mexico City citizens in opposition to the capital’s primary police drive in recent times, in spite of the mayor’s declaration. Even senior police officers say corruption hasn’t been eliminated from the drive of greater than 81,000 officials. The numbers undergo that out.
Interviews with present and previous law enforcement officials, govt information and paperwork reviewed by way of The New York Times involving unlawful arrests and abductions display that Ms. Sheinbaum’s police drive has, in many ways, gotten worse since she took place of business.
Instead of curtailing bodily abuse and false arrests, police and town officers have grew to become a blind eye, present and previous police officers say — steadily leaving sufferers, lots of them deficient, with little recourse after enduring violent human rights abuses.
In the just about 4 years since Ms. Sheinbaum took place of business, town’s human rights fee has gained greater than 5,000 stories in opposition to the police categorized as acts of physically hurt and violations of private liberty — incidents that come with unlawful arrests, torture and dying threats.
There have been greater than 1,900 such stories simply in 2021, the best possible quantity in one 12 months since 2004, when the fee first began publicly categorizing the varieties of claims made in opposition to govt staff.
Allegations of torture, in line with the fee, come with electrical shocks, strangulation, simulated executions and sexual attack. In the primary six months of 2022, the fee fielded extra stories when compared with the similar duration ultimate 12 months.
The fee — led by way of an reliable elected by way of Mexico City’s Congress — evaluations each and every document after which refers it to the related division for investigation. A police spokeswoman instructed The Times that since 2019, 477 officials had been brushed aside for no longer upholding the drive’s ideas or for failing a background test.
The building up in stories of misconduct is usually a signal that citizens have extra tactics to document abuse than they did below the former mayoral management, mentioned Pablo Vázquez Camacho, a deputy secretary of town’s primary police drive.
“There is greater opportunity to file reports by residents,” he mentioned. “It is likely that more investigations are being opened because we are investigating more.”
Mr. Vázquez, alternatively, disagreed with Ms. Sheinbaum’s view that police corruption, together with extortion of electorate, had ended. “It is not very realistic to say that it has been eradicated completely,” he mentioned. “But we are in the process of eradicating it.”
The spike in claims of police abuse may be tied to broader investigative and intelligence powers given to officials, beginning in 2019, to battle crime, in line with Miguel Garza, director of the Institute for Security and Democracy, a Mexican analysis institute.
The primary drive’s obligations have been expanded past patrolling streets to investigating crimes starting from drug trafficking to homicides, and integrated the advent of a role drive in 2019 interested in preventing extortion and kidnapping.
“There is pressure from commanders to deliver results,” mentioned Mr. Garza, a former Mexico City police commander. “What they’re looking for is to ensure people are incarcerated and, to do that, at times they might frame a person with drugs.”
The police abuses closely goal low-income citizens who steadily can’t manage to pay for felony illustration, in line with present and previous law enforcement officials.
“They target these vulnerable groups because they believe they don’t have the knowledge or the education to defend their rights,” mentioned a former Mexico City police officer, Jaime Ramón Bernal García, who used to be accused of disobeying an order and fired in 2014. He mentioned his dismissal got here after he had demanded higher exertions stipulations for law enforcement officials. He later based a nonprofit that promotes exertions rights for legislation enforcement.
Still, Ms. Sheinbaum’s place of business reaffirmed the mayor’s achievements.
“All practices of torture and illegal arrests have stopped occurring,” the mayor’s place of business instructed The Times in a commentary in March. Last month, the place of business instructed The Times that the drive had additionally reinforced its human rights coaching this 12 months to handle conduct cited in the commonest circumstances of police misconduct.
“We want citizens to know that we will not permit nor tolerate these actions,” Ms. Sheinbaum’s place of business mentioned.
The mayor’s statement that her management has reformed Mexico City’s police displays a broader nationwide push to become the country’s safety forces below Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, so as to root out govt corruption.
Shortly after taking place of business in past due 2018, Mr. López Obrador, dissolved the federal police and created a brand new drive, the National Guard, that he mentioned could be “incorruptible.” (Human rights teams have accused the National Guard of the similar violent practices performed by way of the Federal Police.)
Ms. Sheinbaum is matching Mr. López Obrador’s enthusiasm and empowering the National Guard on an area scale, as “part of a strategy to reinforce security,” she has mentioned. Currently, greater than 12,000 National Guard troops patrol Mexico City.
Yet the deep rot inside Mexico City’s primary police drive, the daily enforcement arm within the capital, persists.
A presidential election in 2024 has possibly worsened the misconduct. The police are operating to strengthen safety and crack down on crime to reinforce arrest statistics forward of Ms. Sheinbaum’s anticipated presidential run, mentioned analysts and several other law enforcement officials. In some circumstances, blameless other folks had been arrested and compelled to admit to unsolved crimes, despite the fact that the circumstances are in the end thrown out in courtroom.
The misconduct in Mr. Garcia’s case isn’t an exception.
In spring 2021, law enforcement officials detained a person named Omar, 25, challenging that he confess to killing a lady in his community, in line with Omar’s testimony to the prosecutor, which used to be equipped to The Times by way of his attorney. The attorney requested that Omar’s ultimate identify no longer be used for worry of reprisal from the police.
When Omar refused, the officials took a plastic bag and lined his head, just about suffocating him, in line with Omar’s testimony. They then compelled him to admit to the homicide in a recorded video, he mentioned.
A Mexico City pass judgement on threw out the case, mentioning proof of torture.
Last 12 months, town’s human rights fee revealed a scathing document mentioning “a series of patterns” of abuses, together with torture and arbitrary arrests, by way of town police drive and a smaller drive below the Mexico City legal professional normal’s place of business.
The document highlighted circumstances of officials planting medicine on detainees, extorting electorate for money whilst threatening to vanish them and breaking into houses with out arrest warrants and beating citizens.
The fee really helpful that the Mexico City police leader, Omar García Harfuch, herald mavens to lend a hand establish how the drive used to be failing nationwide and world arrest requirements. It often known as for the drive to agree to a countrywide arrest sign in supposed to restrict torture and compelled disappearances by the hands of law enforcement officials.
The director of the police drive’s human rights division mentioned the entire suggestions put ahead by way of the fee have been within the strategy of being carried out — despite the fact that the pandemic has created some delays.
In the case of Mr. García, the taco stand employee, his assailants drove him to the Mexico City legal professional normal’s place of business after abducting him and parked out of doors, in line with CCTV pictures reviewed by way of The Times.
Then anyone known as his spouse, Maria Karina Chia Pérez, challenging money for his liberate and the possession paperwork for Mr. García’s moped, in line with the García circle of relatives.
Ms. Chia known as everybody she knew however may just best get a hold of part the cash.
When she couldn’t ship the bribe, the lads was uniforms after which marched Mr. García into the legal professional normal headquarters, in line with the surveillance pictures.
Mr. García used to be charged with drug trafficking. The legal professional normal’s place of business didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The police document mentioned officials discovered Mr. García with a bag filled with cocaine and marijuana on the very time the surveillance pictures confirmed he used to be being held within the taxi in entrance of the legal professional normal’s place of business.
After seven months in jail, Mr. Garcia pleaded accountable in alternate for his conditional liberate. His son used to be born whilst he used to be imprisoned.
“It felt terrible, ” Mr. García mentioned of pleading accountable. “But on the other hand I felt better because I was going to have my freedom and could see my son.”
Now, Mr. García is attempting to pursue prison fees in opposition to the officials.
“I just want justice to be done,” Mr. García mentioned.