José Luis Soberanes, head of the governmental National Human Rights Commission, made the call for the removal of the military from Mexico's bloody drug war -- more than 1,500 people have been killed so far this year -- as he released reports on four widely-publicized incidents of human rights abuses by the military. They are:
- A May incident in the central state of Michoacán in which soldiers seeking information about drug traffickers raped two women and sexually assaulted two minors after entering homes without a warrant.
- Another May incident in Michoacán in which soldiers tortured seven civilians and a child after an army patrol came under attack by unknowns.
- A June 1 incident where soldiers shot and killed three women school teachers and two children in a pick-up truck they said failed to stop at a nighttime checkpoint in the Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa.
- The mass rape of 14 women in the border state of Coahuila after a local police chief briefly arrested a soldier.
Soldiers are not trained for law enforcement, Soberanes said, and should be replaced by civilian police. "A policeman is trained to deal daily with citizens," Soberanes said, "and in necessary cases uses gradual and measured force. A soldier, because of the delicate nature of his task, is physically and mentally trained to fight enemies and obey orders."
Faced with escalating violence among drug trafficking organizations and between them and Mexican police, President Calderón deployed the military in various cities and states in the country beginning late last year. Thousands of troops were sent to Michoacán, Sinaloa, and other drug producing states.
Soberanes made his remarks as the US General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report critical of US cooperation with Mexico to combat drug trafficking. That report, Drug Control: US Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts, But Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow Into the United States, found that 90% of cocaine entering the US now comes through Mexico. While critical of corruption and lack of effort on the Mexican side, too, it praised Calderón for deploying the military in the battle against the drug trade.