Center for Investigation and National Security
(Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional -- CISEN)
From the 1940s until it was disbanded in 1985, the Federal Directorate of Security, which was under the control of the Secretariat of Government, was the primary agency assigned to preserve internal stability against subversion and terrorist threats. The directorate was responsible for investigating national security matters and performed other special duties as directed by the president. It acted as the equivalent of the United States DEA in the Mexican government. A plainclothes force, the directorate had no legal arrest powers nor formal authority to gather evidence, although it could call upon the assistance of other government agencies and could use other surveillance techniques.
By the final years of its existence, the directorate had more than doubled in size to some 2,000 personnel. The agency's demise came after it became evident that many of its personnel were in league with major drug traffickers. Its successor was the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional -- CISEN). Although formally under the Secretariat of Government, CISN is said to operate under direct presidential control. Still primarily concerned with gathering intelligence, CISN also has expanded activities to include opinion polling and analysis of domestic political and social conditions. In 1992 illegal wiretaps were found in a meeting room to be used by the central committee of the opposition National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional--PAN). Although the government denied any official involvement, the local representative of CISN was forced to resign.
Brutality and systematic abuses of human rights by elements of the Mexican internal security forces are pervasive and have largely gone unpunished. Practices cited by human rights groups include the use of torture, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, and other cruelties perpetrated against private persons and prisoners. According to several sources, the number and seriousness of such offenses has declined somewhat in the early 1990s. The improvement has been attributed to the greater determination of the national government to prosecute offenders and to the work of national and local human rights agencies in exposing instances of police violations of human rights and in pressing for punishment.
In 1990 the Mexican government established the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos--CNDH). Initially under the Secretariat of Government, the CNDH was granted constitutional status and full autonomy under a law enacted in 1992. By the following year, similar offices to investigate abuses had been established in all states of Mexico. The CNDH has the power to compel officials to grant access and give evidence. Its recommendations are nonbinding on government agencies, however. As of 1993, 268 of 624 CNDH recommendations had been followed fully. These resulted in eighty-two people being arrested and twenty sentenced to prison terms averaging more than five years for human rights violations.
According to the private human rights organization, Amnesty International, state judicial police and other law enforcement agencies frequently use torture in the form of beatings, near-asphyxiation, electric shock, burning with cigarettes, and psychological torture. Most victims are criminal suspects, but others, such as leaders of indigenous groups or civil rights activists engaged in demonstrations or other peaceful activities, have been targeted as well.
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