The worst suspicions of Angélica García Hernández, 26, were fulfilled on Wednesday, December 15. It was less than a week before the indictment hearing against two soldiers accused of the murder of her husband, scheduled for Monday, when they announced that it would not take place. One of the soldiers, José María Ortiz, defected three months ago while the other, Ranulfo Citlalan Martínez, is not reachable, according to the Reynosa court.
Now the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has three days to act or the case will be shelved. Then it will be the judge who determines whether to issue a search and arrest warrant against the military elements.
Javier Flores del Angel, 26, was shot dead twice on Feb. 27 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. He was driving his vehicle with three other friends when he was attacked by an Army patrol. The soldiers claimed they had been assaulted from the car, but the investigation proved it was a lie.
“We warned them that we didn’t want the military to defect. We asked them, we were from before mentioning that they were not going to let them go, that we made them responsible, that they were giving them many opportunities,” garcía Hernández says in a telephone interview.
What she had already predicted happened: that without precautionary measures, at least one of the soldiers hung up his uniform to avoid the action of justice while the other is not located in the facilities of the Sixteenth Motorized Cavalry Regiment located in Nuevo Laredo. This implies that he could have been transferred to another destination and that now the FGR must request the collaboration of the Ministry of Defense (Sedena) to find his whereabouts.
“It gives the impression that the Army is acting maliciously, that it protects these elements and is seeking to delay the process,” said lawyer Carlos Aguilar, representative of the victim’s family.
Both soldiers were to be charged with the crimes of arbitrary detention and homicide. The soldier’s defection occurred on Sept. 15, according to official documents. A month ago, on August 13, Sedena officials arrived at García Hernández’s home for the last time to offer an economic agreement. It was the fourth time they had done so. They also tried before the FGR.
This is a common practice carried out by the Army and the National Guard: money in exchange for impunity. They pay the funeral expenses and an economic amount that can reach one million pesos in exchange for the relatives desisting from maintaining the accusation.
Animal Político documented that at least 187 such agreements had been obtained since 2010. Sedena refused to provide the amounts paid to each victim.
“I told them I wasn’t interested, but the process was dragging on because they told me I had to talk to Sedena’s lawyers,” says the widow.
He remembers perfectly that on the last visit it was around 5:30 p.m. because he wrote it down in a notebook. She says officers knocked on the door with “a lot of force,” as if they were going to throw her down. They then informed him that they were coming to “repair the damage.” But for her, with an eight-month-old baby in her care and a new life with her husband just started, there was nothing to repair.
In the case of the second soldier, Sedena alleged that he is not in the Nuevo Laredo barracks but also did not say if he is in another detachment, so the judge asked the prosecutor to investigate his whereabouts.
Animal Político requested its version from Sedena and the FGR but at press time it had not received a response.
They lied in their statement.
The account of the events of the murder of Javier Flores del Ángel is no different from that of other homicides in which the Armed Forces intervene.
The vehicle was traveling in the Colinas del Sur neighborhood when it was chased by several military vehicles that blocked its way and shot it. The soldiers claimed to have been attacked from the car the victim was driving. In fact, in their statements to the FGR, to which Animal Político had access, they used the same expression to justify their shots: they pulled the trigger “in the face of real and imminent aggression.” José María “O”, a 21-year-old soldier, fired eight bullets, while the uniformed man did not, a 39-year-old cavalry corporal, pulled the trigger twice. They both lied. There were no traces of gunfire coming from the victims’ car and the sodium radizonate test, which is used to know if someone used a weapon recently, came back negative.
At least 16 soldiers belonging to the La Ribereña Mixed Bases Operation who were traveling in three Cheyenne vehicles and a sandcat participated in the events. However, only two were pointed out, which are the ones who acknowledged having come down.He got out of his car and shot at the victim.
“All the guarantees were being given to the military investigated even though they lied in their statement,” said Raymundo Ramos, president of the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee, the organization that has accompanied the widow since the military killed her husband. In his opinion, the delays prove the unwillingness to investigate. “If Sedena were interested in guaranteeing the rule of law and collaborating in the investigation, it had no need to move one of the defendants,” he said.
On the FGR, he considered that “it imputes those who shot directly. Nor to the superior who ordered to falsify the documents or prevent first aid. But the Attorney General’s Office has no interest in investigating.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been singled out for giving excessive power to the army while denying human rights violations perpetrated by officers. His last defense of the uniforms came on December 1, when he claimed that the military no longer commits “torture, forced disappearances or extrajudicial executions.”
But Angelica Garcia Hernandez knows that’s not true. That there are soldiers who continue to kill and who, in addition, manage to evade the action of justice. The young woman says that when she was notified that the hearing would not take place, that at least one of her husband’s murderers was on the run, he collapsed. “I feel frustrated, disappointed in the system that is handled in Mexico,” she says. But after all the obstacles, he still feels like fighting. And a request: “that the death of my husband not go unpunished.”
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