By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mexico's reliance on the military to combat widespread drug violence and crime has been largely ineffective and has led to increases in human rights violations, according to a congressional report released Thursday.
The majority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which traveled to Mexico in April for extensive interviews with U.S. and Mexican officials, said in the study that the administration of President Felipe Calderon has made progress in confronting organized crime bosses, but the stopgap use of the military to pick up the slack for the police has had limited success.
"Heavy reliance upon the military to quell lawlessness and directly confront the narcotics syndicates appears to have been largely ineffective — and in some instances to have exacerbated the violence suffered by civilians," the report said.
Like Calderon, Mexico's President-elect Pena Nieto will be under pressure to deal with the rampant violence. The report said that since December 2006, when Calderon began his campaign against organized crime, there have been more than 55,000 drug-related homicides. The report briefly described the horrific tactics used by organized crime.
"All too frequently mass killings include women and minors. Bodies visibly mutilated are hung from bridges and severed heads are deposited in public places. In at least one instance, a pig's head was sewn onto a torso,' the report said.
Calderon's efforts to combat crime and stem the violence receive strong support from the majority of Mexicans, the report said. However, significant numbers of Mexicans doubt that the government can stop the drug violence. That's due in part to suspicions about the police and judicial system, which have been plagued by corruption and ineffectiveness.
As the United States and Mexico maintain close ties, the report recommended that Congress provide at least $250 million a year for the next four years for the Merida Initiative, the cooperative security effort. The money would allow Mexico to speed up judicial reforms and overhaul of the state police forces.
Since 2008, Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion for the initiative, named for the Mexican city that hosted Calderon and former President George W. Bush in 2007. By April of this year, the United States had provided about $1 billion worth of equipment, technical assistance and training.
"Mexico's presidential transition provides a new window to discuss and debate the best security strategies to deal with the serious violence plaguing Mexico," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said in a statement. "As the political landscape continues to change in both countries, this report underscores the importance of continuity in two critical areas — judicial and police reform. Mexicans have committed to these fundamental reforms and as tough as they will be to implement they are fundamental for any sustained reduction in violence in Mexico."
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