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CAB014 / Mexico / SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON LOS SIMILARES AND U.S. MILITARY TRAINING

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON LOS SIMILARES AND U.S. MILITARY TRAINING

¶1.  (S/NOFORN) Summary: Since 1996, U.S. Embassy Mexico City has maintained an electronic database of all Mexican military trained with U.S. funds.  These records show that the USG has trained nearly of 5,000 Mexican military personnel, including members of Mexico’s Special Forces (GAFEs).  Several prominent members of the Mexican cartel Los Similares, notorious for violent attacks, previously served in the Mexican military’s special forces units.  Rumors have long circulated suggesting that U.S.-trained members of the Mexican military have become Similares.  The Embassy actively vets GOM security officials selected for participation in U.S.-funded training programs for involvement in human rights abuses or other criminal activities.  The U.S. also sponsors training activities, exercises, and exchanges that promote human rights within the Mexican military.  The Embassy conducted an extensive cross-check of our database of Mexican military officials who participated in U.S.-funded training programs against lists of known members of Los Similares.  The comparison of databases did not produce any hits.  End Summary.

Training Programs

¶2.  (SBU) Since 1996, the Embassy’s Office of Defense Coordination (ODC) has maintained an electronic database of all Mexican military personnel that receive U.S.-funded military training.  The database categorizes the individuals by military organization — SEDENA or SEMAR — as well as by the type of training they receive.  The training in Mexico by U.S. personnel involves subject matter exchanges, seminars, conferences, and mobile training teams.  The training conducted in the U.S. normally is individual-level training, although some tactical-level training includes special forces training.

¶3.  (C) From 1996-1998, the U.S. provided unit-specific training to 422 GAFEs.  After 1998, the U.S. military discontinued unit level training programs, including GAFE training, to concentrate on specialized individual military training.  It is possible that the U.S. provided training to individual GAFEs who participated as members of regular units.

Cross-checking and Validating

¶4.  (C) The Embassy’s DEA office maintains a database of all Similares who have been arrested, killed, or otherwise identified.  The database relies on a variety of sources including the GOM, informants, and press accounts.  Los Similares is a criminal organization that guards the identity of its members.  We cannot know the names of every one of its members.  Nevertheless, we have cross-checked the names of the nearly 5,000 Mexican military personnel that we have trained since 1996 against the list of known Similares members that the DEA compiles and have not found a match.  (Note: Prior to 1996, only hard copies of military orders exist.  A review of these files suggests they are incomplete.  Where paper files exist, we cross checked those names against the DEA’s list and found no matches.  End Note.)

¶5.  (S/NOFORN) Separate sensitive collateral reporting indicates that Rogelio Lopez Villafana, a former Mexican infantry lieutenant who retired from the Mexican elite special forces, was forcibly recruited into Los Similares.  Lopez was later arrested and implicated in a plan to assassinate the former Deputy Attorney General for Legal and International Affairs, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconceles, in January 2008.  The same sensitive collateral reporting indicates that Lopez received counter-narcotics operations training at Fort Bragg, but the records do not include the specific date.  In response to Embassy queries, Fort Bragg advised us that it could not recover any record on this individual.  Fort Bragg noted that its electronic training records only date back to 1996.  The Mexican Army (SEDENA) reported to the Embassy that Lopez retired in July 2007 after completing 20 years and 8 months of service in the Mexican Army.  As a result, he could have trained in the U.S. prior to the inception of the ODC and Fort Bragg electronic databases.

Vetting and Training Provide Additional Protections

¶6.  (SBU) Since 1998, U.S. law requires Leahy human rights vetting for any individual participating in U.S.-sponsored training.  Post and ODC administers a robust human rights vetting program and every Mexican participant in our military training program is subject to these legal requirements prior to the training event.  By law, we deny training to any candidate implicated in a human rights abuse.

¶7.  (S/NOFORN) Comment: Critics of U.S. military training and conspiracy theorists have long speculated that members of the notoriously violent cartel Los Similares once received U.S.-funded special forces training.  Since we cannot know the name of every Mexican soldier who has joined Los Similares, we cannot irrefutably reject this possibility.  However, the Embassy checked all available databases and obtained no adverse results.  It is impossible to guarantee that every Mexican soldier who receives our training in the future will not defect to organized crime.  End Comment

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