The Palmarito Tochapan bullet

El Universal 05/11/17
Ricardo Raphael

If the video were authentic, it would become the killer bullet of the draft of law for internal security that seeks to cast a broad veil of impunity over the Armed Forces.

The image leaves one breathless:  a soldier shooting a kneeling civilian in the head. Allegedly a huachicolero, shot down without reason or law.

It is impossible to remove that image from one’s head once we have seen it. It is burned into the eye. But it is still not possible to verify the authenticity of that material. A strict inquiry is still necessary to separate the false from the true in that enactment of terror.

In the meantime, an autopsy of the reactions and justifications of the video is due. Yesterday, the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA) issued a communiqué that must not go unnoticed. It begins by saying that the video shows “the moments when the soldiers are attacked by shots from various vehicles.”

In these initial lines, the footage that was recorded by a security camera is believable. The images are not manufactured nor raise any doubts. The soldiers were attacked, period. That writing forgets the conditional and neglects cautious terminology like “alleged” or “supposed”.

However, everything changes in the second paragraph. When the communiqué refers to the key point of the sequence of images—the military shot that explodes a human skull—the tone and style of the writing are transformed:

“Apparently, a soldier opens fire on an overpowered civilian… this must be clarified by a public prosecutor… to determine whether it is authentic or edited and, if applicable, define responsibilities.”

The distance between one structure and the other draws attention because the presumed innocence should run equally both ways. Why is it taken as fact that the soldiers were attacked, but doubt is cast on the cruel shot against the kneeling civilian?

The suspicion of an edited or modified video should cast doubt on every affirmation. We can, however, fear that the slanted writing will be the line of communication of what is to come. This would not be the first time that this agency presents the perpetrator as victim and the victim as perpetrator.

There is already information aiming to discredit Cambio, the Puebla journal that revealed the video. This is a worn, yet still used, resource.

The first question in the inquiry regards the destination of the alleged corpse. Were there other murders? Where are those remains? Whose were the vehicles that appear in the video? Were the people attacked truly huachicoleros? What weapons did they use? What are the names of the soldiers who participated in these events?

It is a matter of justice that makes this inqury relevant, but it is also a matter of politics.

If the video were authentic, SEDENA and the government of Puebla lied. The armed struggle between huachicoleros and the military police disclosed last May 3 would be a tall tale.

But there is an even more important political motive:  If the video were authentic, it would become the killer bullet of the draft of law for internal security that seeks to cast a broad veil of impunity over the Armed Forces.

ZOOM: two authorities are responsible for carrying out this crucial investigation: the military justice and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR). I would like to believe in their impartiality, but I can’t.


Text translated by the Instituto VIF from the original published by El Universal.