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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Torture Was Used by Mexican Security Forces to Nab Drug Kingin

4 Substance


“El Chapo” Guzman’s February capture by Mexican Marines Photo via

Mexican Marines employed torture techniques in February’s sensational capture of “El Chapo” Guzman, the longtime head of the Sinaloa Cartel, the drug war’s biggest criminal enterprise, according to The New Yorker.

A DEA agent told reporter Patrick Radden Keefe that two men in Chapo’s inner circle were tortured by Mexican security forces in an apparently successful effort to elicit “real-time, actionable” info. “[The two men] would never have given it up if not for [being tortured],” the agent said.

Torture is not only a violation of international law but widely viewed as only rarely effective. Yet this revelation of “real-time, actionable” info, if true, fits the scenario championed by torture proponents, such as President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as torture’s justification.

Keefe says that the intelligence forced out of Chapo’s two aides was by no means the last piece of the puzzle, however. “It would be a mistake to attribute the capture of Chapo primarily to coercive interrogation. In the turbo-charged world of contemporary intelligence, investigations bear little resemblance to the kinds of clean, one-detail-at-a-time deductive sequences that we associate with Sherlock Holmes. Instead, they are a hailstorm of data points.” The search for Chapo, which had been in progress for over a decade, also included interviews with informants—possibly including his “godson,” “Narco Junior”—wiretaps and the latest in high tech, from geolocation hardware to Drones.

While the report of torture is newsworthy, torture is nothing new in the drug war. US and Mexican security officials told Keefe that “rough interrogation is so common, it would be more surprising to learn that it hadn’t been employed in this instance than that it had.” The Cartels torture members of competing Cartels, security officials who they cannot buy off and almost anyone else if it proves convenient. In turn, security forces torture drug traffickers. “It is a sad commentary on the drug war that, in pursuing violent traffickers who have made a specialty of sadism, the authorities might embrace the same techniques,” Keefe writes.