“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep."
Fidel Sanchez Jaimes, 17
Cashier at a tortilla shop
Accused of stealing money
Offices of the State Judiciary, Rio Tijuana District
January 15, 1990
"They apprehended me of work and handcuffed me They took me in on old grey van with, I think, blue license plates—maybe I didn't see them well. the inside of the van was really scratched up, and there was a mattress in back. And they started to kick me in the stomach and climbed on top of me and slapped me hard, twice.
Clark's physical impression is that of a young Latin bourgeois — not an idler, but a middle-class son easing into an early and agreeable success.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
"From there they took me to the offices [of the State Judicial Police) and put me in a small room, five by two and a half meters, more or less. There was an old coffee table and a couple of beat-up old chairs. The walls were cement block. There were a couple of electric lights — I don’t remember very well.
“[In the room] they started to slap me and kick me in the stomach. After that they beat me on the back with two old belts that they then used to tie my feet very tightly to the chair. Then they handcuffed me again, real tight, and said, ‘Take off your shirt.’ And I took it off, so I was left in my T-shirt.
"Someone said my name and said, ‘You are the guilty one.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He said, ‘Yes, you are. How can you not be?’"
"Then they grabbed me by the hair and told me to open my mouth, so I opened real wide. They shoved my shirt in my mouth so I wouldn’t scream very loud, and I was tied really tight to the chair so I couldn’t move.... They attached electrical cables to me — one on my little finger and one to each foot — and then they switched on the electricity. A man sat in the other chair, and he grabbed the cables and touched [the cables] together, again and again. Each time he put them together I felt a shock. Then he left them together for a while. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t be heard because [of the shirt in my mouth]. I couldn’t scream very loud.
Most of the torture methods used by the police, however, leave little physical evidence.
“So they had me like this for a long time, shocking me. And when they saw I wasn’t going to confess, they shocked me very hard for a long time. The cables were making sparks like they were shorting out. They left me like this for five minutes.... After this was over they kicked and slapped me and told me I still hadn’t cleared myself. They dragged me up to a cell and put me down. Then someone said my name and said, ‘You are the guilty one.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He said, ‘Yes, you are. How can you not be?’ And this man, who was wearing boots, started kicking me in the knee with the heel of his boot. He kicked me about seven times, real hard, this one did.
Torture, Clark claims, plays a commonplace role with the Judicial State Police, the Federal Judicial Police, and, less frequently and less severely, by the Municipal Police of Tijuana.
“[The State Judicial Police] who did this — the ones in the van and who shocked me — one is thin, 35, 40 years old, he has wrinkles, no mustache, he wears glasses, straight hair, a hoarse voice, sort of dark-skinned. Each time he went to read something he put on his glasses. The other one was a little bit light-skinned, sort of fair hair, about 30 years old. He didn’t wear glasses, and I don’t remember if he had a mustache or not. He was tall. Wore pointy-toed boots.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep, and I start crying. And I feel as if all my body was being shocked, whenever I remember.”
— Second Report on the Rights of the Tortured Minor: The Case of Tijuana, B.C. Mexico, prepared by the Binational Center of Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico. 1990.
Victor Clark is a tidy gentleman in a white dress shirt and creased navy-blue slacks. His beard is neatly trimmed, and he smells pleasantly of cologne. His hand is warm, the palm soft as cotton. His physical impression is that of a young Latin bourgeois — not an idler, but a middle-class son easing into an early and agreeable success.
Centro de Observacion de Menores Infractores
Photo by Robert Burroughs
He is not, however, sufficiently poised to he a merchant, a businessman. He is soft-spoken. His voice, at times, falters; he is shy. While he speaks, his good grooming slowly reveals itself as an orderliness necessitated and perhaps defined by the very messy nature of his work.
Three red metal chairs face the work desk of his very, very small office overlooking the comer of Tenth and Pio Pico streets in Tijuana. Victor Clark sits on a low chair behind this desk upon which books and papers have been stacked high enough that only his face is visible. The books and papers absorb his quiet voice so that a listener must lean forward from one of the red metal chairs to hear what Victor Clark is saying. Outside, construction workers are hammering and drilling on a next-door building. Through the racket, over the books and papers on his desk, Victor Clark explains the various methods of torture allegedly applied to minors by the State Judicial Police in Tijuana.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
The most often used instruments, in no particular order, are:
- Electrical current
- Sticks, boards
- Plastic bags
- Cables, wires
- Pistol butts
- Paper, newspapers
- Key rings
- Hands and feet (kicking with boots)
Torture, Clark claims, plays a commonplace role in the interrogation process as practiced by the three official law-enforcement bodies operating in Tijuana — the Judicial State Police, the Federal Judicial Police, and, less frequently and less severely, by the Municipal Police of Tijuana. It is a practice applied not solely to adult criminal suspects but to underage detainees as well. The latter is, to Clark, the most disturbing. These victims, he says, guilty or not of crimes, are often from the most disadvantaged classes — homeless teenagers, poor urban families, young rural migrants from the Mexican interior. They have neither money nor status to protect them from abuse. Their lives remain largely unobserved by the press. As such, Clark feels that news of their torture should arouse the sympathy of the Mexican public.
Part of Clark’s work as director of the Binational Center of Human Rights is monitoring this abuse. In 1987, the same year the center was founded, Clark produced his first report on the police torture of minors. After the report was publicized by the Mexican press, Clark says he found evidence that the practice temporarily declined. But in the next three years, the incidence appears to have increased. In preparation for his 1990 report, Clark interviewed 76 teenagers who were in the custody of the Tijuana juvenile justice system between January 15 and March 30. Knowing that he would not be allowed to talk with the teenagers if he disclosed he was doing a study of police torture, Clark told officials that he was researching the causes of juvenile delinquency. Of those interviewed, all 76 claimed to have been, by Clark’s definition, tortured: 47 by the State Judicial Police; 14 by the Municipal Police (involving brutality only at the moment of arrest); 3 by the Federal Police; and 12 by employees of the Consejo de Orientacidn y Reeducacion para Menores Infractores de Conducta Antisocial (Tijuana’s equivalent of juvenile hall).
On May 22, Clark and a representative from Colegio de Abogados Ignacio Burgoa — an association of 50 attorneys in Tijuana — presented the State Attorney General’s office of Baja California with a file of criminal complaints against the three law-enforcement bodies and the juvenile justice system. These specific violations, including allegations of kidnapping, injury, threats, and abuse of authority, were culled from the 76 taped interviews Clark conducted and offered what the attorneys felt to be the best possibilities for legal action.
Clark similarly filed claims following his 1987 report and has yet to see any result. He says it may take as long as five years for the State Attorney General’s office to evaluate his current complaints and institute an official investigation. He also contends that an investigation, while desirable, is entirely beside the point. The complexities of governmental corruption make prosecution and subsequent reform unlikely. He hopes only to shame the police into less brutal behavior.
On his crowded desk are transcripts from his taped interviews with the young detainees held at the juvenile hall in Tijuana. Scattered among the sheets of paper are colored photographs of young men pulling up their shirts and dropping their pants to reveal broken ribs and bruises. Most of the torture methods used by the police, however, leave little physical evidence. What does exist are the testimonies — words strung together in sentence fragments, hastily typed by Clark, page after page. “It is,” he says, “a very difficult
Victor Manuel Castrejon Verdugo, 16
Accused of theft
Office of the State Judicial Police, Rio Tijuana District
January 26, 1990
“They put me in the car, and they started hitting me with their fists in the stomach and chest. They hit me a lot. As soon as they got me in the car, they started hitting me. Two of the judicial police. They hit me because they said they’d wanted to get me. They accused me of having tried to bribe some police with 50,000 pesos. I said I didn’t remember doing that. They started to punch me very hard in the chest and stomach — all the way from Zona Norte to the [offices of the state judicial police]. In the car they hit me and poked me with their nightsticks. The guy who was driving was the one who later hit me when we got to the offices.
“When we got there, they said, ‘Tell us everything you’ve stolen.’ And I said, ‘I haven’t stolen.’ And they said, ‘Tell us the truth.’ And one of them says, ‘Come on, you son of a bitch.’
“Then they took me to a little room with yellow walls, a large desk, and an old chair. There were two brown wood doors. A light. No windows. And stairs off to one side. And then they started saying, ‘Tell me all that you’ve stolen, you motherfucker.’
“They handcuffed me in back real tight and tied my feet together with belts, and then they said, ‘Open your mouth.’ And they put a big wad of toilet paper in my mouth and said to me, ‘When you want to talk, shake your head.’ Then they put a plastic grocery bag, one of the kind they give at Cali-Max [a supermarket], completely over my head. Then [one of them] said to his partner, ‘Hey, buddy, get on top of him.’ So, the really big, fat one got on top of my legs and pushed hard on my stomach and didn’t let me breathe. Then I shook my head. One of them said, ‘You’ve been fooling us, you son of a bitch, and now you’re really gonna fuckin’ pay for it. Now you’re gonna talk....’
“And they started to hit me again, all over my body, in the stomach. They put the bag back over my head. It was unbearable. It was smothering me. They hit me again. And I still didn’t confess, so they put the bag back over my head again. Twice. They put paper in my mouth so I couldn’t breathe. They covered all my head, my face, tightly with the bag, and 1 couldn’t breathe at all. And so 1 started to tell them lies because I couldn’t stand the bag or the punches. They asked me how many robberies I had done. I started to invent some so they wouldn’t hit me anymore. They told me to stand up against a wall, and one of the police told me, ‘If you can stand a good punch in the stomach, I’ll let you go. But if you double over, I’ll really beat you.’ He hit me. He said, ‘You doubled over. You’re not going to leave.’ He told me to turn around and face the wall. That was it. They put a gag in my mouth, and one of the police grabbed it from behind and told me not to stick out my tongue because the electricity might make me bite it.
“Of the policemen who detained me, one was a little fat, dark-skinned, had a mustache, short, black hair combed back, a gruff voice with a Mexico City accent, maybe 40, 45 years old — this is the one who was driving. The one who was behind me was chubby, had a light-brown beard and mustache. He was about 35 years old, had a thin voice. His hair was light brown, and he combed it back. He was fairly light-skinned.
“The policeman who was driving was named Estrada. “These are the same ones who beat me at the police station.”
Armando Jaramillo Cruz, 18
Accused of using drugs
Office of the State Judicial Police, Zona Centro de Observacion de Menores Infractores Norte District
January 2, 1990
“They put a plastic bandage around my face, the kind you use for fractures, and then they leaned me back in a chair, and one of them pinned my arms back with his legs and another held my legs down. They put water up my nose. They squirted it into my nose with a plastic milk carton. One of them kept hitting me in the stomach with his fist. They did this for about 15 minutes. When they stopped using the water, they wanted to use ‘the buzzer’ [a homemade kind of stun gun] on me. I told them I was a minor, and they got really angry when I told them that. They told me they didn’t care if I died. They kept hitting me in the stomach. Then they put me in a cell. I was the only minor. There were about 15 adults in there. About every 15 minutes [the police] came and took some of them out to beat them. They turned on the radio real loud so that no one could hear it. The guys came back all beaten up with water coming out of their noses. An hour later they came and got me and did the same thing to me. They hit me again in the stomach and on the back, but they didn’t use the water anymore. They left me in the cell for six days.
“The [policeman] who put water up my nose was tall, fairskinned, thick beard. He seemed to be from Mexico City. He had a rough voice. He had sort of a scar on his chin. The other policeman had dark, curly hair, younger — 29 or 30 years old. Very fair-skinned. Mustache. He was thinner than the other guy. Light-green eyes. He had the voice of a child.
“I could identify them.”
Luis Vazquez Flores, 13
Works in a window glass store
Accused of raping a minor
On or about October 24, 1989, between midnight and 1 a.m.
“They put me in a green station wagon. Two men held onto my hands, and one of them took hold of a cucumber and pushed it all the way into my anus. And I screamed, and nobody heard me because the police did this in the presence of other policemen, right here near the border. They took it out of me and brought me here to juvenile hall. When I went to the bathroom, the excrement come out very thick. They put it inside me for no other reason than to have me say that I was guilty, but, anyway, it’s not true.
“One of the policemen said to me, ‘Tell me who it was, or I’ll hit you with my nightstick.’ I said, ‘I don’t know anything.’ 1 didn’t know anything. I didn’t tell him anything about the boy. Then he said, ‘You know the law of the cucumber and the law of the electric orange.’ And I said, ‘What’s that? I don’t know anything about that.’ And he said, ‘I’m going to do the easiest one to you — the cucumber.’ They pulled down my pants. Then they did what I told you about. They pulled down my pants and held down my hands and laid me down in the back of the station wagon and opened my legs and put the cucumber inside me and left it there for about five minutes. I screamed and nobody heard me. It was about midnight or one in the morning. I didn’t feel anything; [the pain] made me numb.
“The policeman [who did this] was tall with black hair combed straight back. He had a small, thin mustache. He was maybe 34, 35 years old. No glasses. Deep voice. Light-brown eyes. But I don’t remember very well. There were two young guys with him. They looked like bikers, wore earrings. They, too, hit me on the shoulders and on my hand. I cried. They hit me about 20 times. The station wagon is green, pretty new. Four doors and one in back. The upholstery was brown with tiny red buttons. I saw a gun cartridge on the seat.”
Hugo Arrollo Salcedo, 15
Accused of assault
Offices of the State Judicial Police, Rio Tijuana District
December 26, 1989, approximately 6:30 p.m.
“They put the bag on me. They grabbed me by the hair and dragged me to a small room. There were other guys in there, and I was the first one [the police] talked to. They said they were going to find out everything — like how many burglaries I had done.... They had me put my hands behind my back, and they slapped me a few times. Then they grabbed me by the hair and put the bag over my head ... a plastic bag. They put it over my head and tied it around my neck. Before they put it on me they put a ball of wet paper in my mouth and told me to bite down on it. Then they put the bag over my head and tied it around my neck with the plastic bag’s handles. They tied it tight and left me that way for about 20 minutes. They punched me a few times in the stomach. They finally got it out of me about the guy I wounded and about a house I broke into. They wanted me to confess about two other houses. When they had the bag over my head, they hit me in the body, and it hurt. It was very hard for me to breathe.
“One of the policemen is kind of an old guy, maybe 45 years old, light-skinned. He’s half bald, has a reddish mustache, black hair. He wears a cap. Medium weight. His partner is really fat. Medium height. Almost bald. Maybe 38 years old. He has a very childlike voice. But this guy [the fat one] didn’t do anything to us.
“The room where this happened is very small. The walls are orange-ish. There’s a lot of stolen property in it — like a warehouse. There’s an old desk. A light. No windows. The door is grayish. This is where they put the bag on me. They have a lot of plastic bags in there.”
Leobardo Manuel Bautista Garcia, 17
Works on a ranch near Tecate
Accused of stealing jewelry
Offices of the State Judicial Police, Rio Tijuana District
February 6, 1990, between noon and 12:30 p.m.
“When I got to the judicial police station they put me in a room, and they told me to take off my clothes. I was left in my shorts and T-shirt, nothing else. They laid me down on the floor, then lifted me up onto a table — rather, they lifted my legs onto a table, a narrow table, and they tied my feet to it with belts. They also tied my hands behind my back with belts that they brought in a plastic bag. They took out some wires and told me to tell about how many times I had stolen or about people I knew who had stolen; that I was a thief. I said I didn’t know anything, that 1 didn’t know anyone [who had stolen]. And they said they were going to see how macho I was, that now I was going to see what was going to happen to me. They attached the wires, one to each foot — to each big toe — and when they connected them I convulsed from the shocks. But before they did this they put a gag in my mouth, and one of the police grabbed it from behind and told me not to stick out my tongue because the electricity might make me bite it. So they gagged me, and he pulled on it, and for about five minutes they gave me shocks. One of them said to me, ‘Calm down, boy. I’m going to untie you. I’m not going to shock you anymore. But tell us who it is [who stole the jewelry].’ And I said I didn’t know anything, that if they wanted me to, I’d say that I did it. They didn’t hit me anymore. One of them said, ‘That’s good. You’re the one.
How many more times have you stolen?’ I said, ‘None.’ Then one of them said to the other, ‘Leave him alone, buddy. Tonight, after all the secretaries have gone home, we’ll take him to another room, and we’ll put him in one of those 80-liter drums and shock him in that to see if he’ll talk. Or we’ll use the plastic bag.’
“They asked me, ‘How old are you?’ I said, ‘Seventeen.’
They said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Here you’re 19 years old, and you’re going to say that you’re 19 so you can sleep in the cells upstairs.’ They took me upstairs to the cells and came back that night. One of the policemen asked me, ‘Do you know any of them [the men in the cell]?’ I said, ‘No. I don’t know them. I don’t know who they are....’
“Before they started with the shocks, they hit me with their fists in the stomach. They slapped me. One of them turned his ring around on his finger and punched me.
“The room [where they tortured me] is small, yellow walls. A small brown desk. A white chair. They brought the belts they used in a red bag.
“The policemen who arrested me were not the ones who hit me. Of the ones who hit me, one of them was short, fair-skinned, wore a lot of gold, a lot of necklaces. He had a light-colored beard, light-brown hair that he sort of combed back. He was a little fat. Maybe 30 years old. Around his neck he had one necklace that had a little lion on it. He had Ray Ban glasses. The other guy wore dark glasses, was sort of fair-skinned, thin, tall, had a mustache. He seemed younger than 25 — 23. Black hair, more or less brown. Deep voice.”
Roberto Miranda Calderon, 17
Accused of assault and robbery
Offices of the State Judicial Police, Rio Tijuana District
May 16, 17, 18, 1989
“I arrived from Los Mochis [in Sinaloa state] at the central bus station, and I slept there overnight. The next day at around 10 o’clock, I went downtown to beg for money. I met a man who invited me to sleep in a hotel where he was staying. The next day the state police came to El Hotel Fenix in Zona Norte and said that they wanted to take me for a little ride. The man at the hotel told me to tell them that I was over 18. When they got me out of the car, I told them that I was a minor, and they tortured me in the judicial state police station in the Rio District. They put me in a little room and attached cables to my big toes, electrical cables, and they attached two wires to my balls, and they poured water onto me with a bucket. They tortured me for about 20 minutes. They slapped me around and said, ‘We’re not going to hit you anymore because you might not be able to stand it.’ They put me in a cell, and about a half an hour later they came back and got me and shocked me again by the toes and balls, and they slapped me. They came up and got me again a half an hour later and [tortured me] for about 20 minutes. They did the same the next day (May 17, 1989) and did the same on the third day (May 18, 1989). Three times a day, but less. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes.
“The police who did this were a tall one, dark skinned, about 50 years old. A big mustache. Deep voice. Black hair combed to the back. Thin. The other was a little fat, about 45 years old, hair about half gray, a big mustache, a delicate voice. Light-skinned.”
On January 19, 1990, an employee of the [juvenile hall] made the following statement regarding Roberto but declined to be identified out of fear of reprisals.
“This young man, on January 5, 1990, finding himself extremely depressed, cut open the veins on both his arms with a razor blade.... When asked why he had hurt himself, he related that he had despaired of his situation; he didn’t know what was going to happen to him. When his bloody wounds were discovered, the chief guard was notified ... bandages were applied to contain the bleeding, hut instead of having this young man transferred to the psychology department, [the chief guard] brought him to his office where he [the chief] dedicated himself to insulting the young man and hit him 12 to 15 times on the face, 12 to 15 times with his closed fist, and he slapped him, which resulted in the bruising and swelling of his cheeks, cheekbones, and eye sockets....”
Hector Manuel Enriquez Perez, 17
Accused of auto theft
La Mesa District, Tijuana
December 12, 13, 1989
“They hit me in the bathrooms of the [judicial police] office. They grabbed me by the shoulders and kneed me in the chest, and they lifted me up and punched me in the stomach. They slapped me a lot and kicked me in the legs and shins. In the bathroom they took a water hose, a tube, and turned on the water and put it up my nose and left it on for a minute — it felt really ugly. One of them grabbed me from behind, and the other put the tube up my nose, and they accused me of a robbery in the neighborhood. Then they went back to hitting me in the stomach, and I vomited. They gave me toilet paper to wipe my mouth with, and they put me in a cell.
“The next day (December 13, 1989) they did the same thing to me. They hit me as they did the night before — in the ribs. They slapped me a lot. They took out the clubs and hit me on the head and left me with a lot of bumps on my head. After that they brought us all out in front of the secretary to depose us, and they really chewed me out — ‘See what happens to you for thieving?’ And they slapped me around. Then they took me to [juvenile hall].
“One of these policemen was fair-skinned, had a deep voice, thinning light-brown hair parted on one side. He was square-shouldered, maybe 30 years old. No mustache. Wore boots, a leather jacket, light-colored pants. The other guy was short, wavy hair, dark-skinned, small mustache. Medium build. Had a weak voice. Dressed the same as the other guy. He’s the one who put the gag in my mouth.
“[Earlier in the year] the State Judicial Police accused me of another burglary, and when we got to the police offices, they took me to a room where there were buckets, belts, cans of vinegar on the floor, and a bucket of raw sewage. It’s a big room.... The walls, I think, were pinkish. They put me in a chair and interrogated me, and when they saw I wasn’t going to admit to being guilty, they slapped me and put me in the chair and told me to throw my head back and they squirted mineral water up my nose, and then they asked me if I had any tattoos, and I told them that I had the number on my chest. They got angry and punched me in the stomach and told me to put my shirt back on and told me not to say anything to my grandma because she’s very old and might die.”
Francisco Orozco Guzman, 15
Accused of stealing a stereo
La Mesa District, Tijuana
January 27,28,29,30,31; February 1,1990
January 27: “They had me handcuffed, and they put me in a little room and told me about the stereo and started to hit me. First they slapped me, then they punched me in the chest. They took off the handcuffs and told me to take off my shirt. Then they started to hit me with their open hands. They made me kneel down, and they slapped me. They told me to put my shirt back on, and they took me to the cell.” January 28: “They put me in the room, and they did the same to me as they had done the day before — they knelt me down and slapped me around, beat me. They wanted me to confess to a theft; they wanted to force it out of me. They slapped me and put me back in the cell.”
January 29: “They put me in the room and attached orange-colored wires to me and said, ‘You know what these are.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And they said, ‘You know what’s going to happen to you if you don’t talk.’ They grabbed me by the hair and hit my ears with their palms.”
January 30: “They knelt me down and beat me, hit me in the stomach and on the back with their hands.”
January 31: “They knelt me down, slapped me, beat me — the same as the day before.”
February 1: “The same as the day before.
“For 12 days I was in the cell with adults. When the police detained me, my papa showed them my birth certificate to prove that I was a minor. They only let me see my papa one time.
“One of the policemen was tall, hair combed back. About 28. Deep voice. Fat. The other one is short, about 25 years old, black hair combed back, wears a cowboy hat. He’s dark-skinned, normal voice. Dark glasses. A little bit fat.
“The room is narrow. The walls are yellow. A small window.”