Mexico City, Mexico — A federal judge in Mexico on January 18 ordered the country’s Secretary of Defense (SEDENA) to “refrain from destroying, purging, eliminating, hiding or concealing” any historical documents related to Mexico’s “Dirty War” from 1965 to 1990.
For over 30 years, the Mexican government under the then ruling PRI Party, executed a military strategy to eliminate subversive groups throughout the country. Through murder, torture, forced disappearances, and mass incarcerations, the government targeted leftist guerrillas, activists, social leaders, political opponents, and students.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSPP) estimates that around 3,000 people were killed or disappeared, another 3,000 were imprisoned and up to 7,000 suffered some kind of torture.
This period of state terrorism, known as Mexico’s Dirty War, is still mired in impunity for the perpetrators, and family members and victims are seeking justice and answers to this day.
One such victim of state repression is Alicia de los Rios Merino, whose case against the military brought about the court’s decision to order that SEDENA refrain from getting rid of or hiding documents related to the Dirty War.
Rios Merino’s mother (who went by the same name as her daughter) was a member of the September 23rd Communist League, a now-defunct Marxist-Leninist urban guerrilla movement. On January 5, 1978, the elder Rios Merino was allegedly picked up by the Crime Prevention Investigation Division, a military unit reportedly responsible for forced disappearances at that time, and has not been seen since.
Rios Merino, supported in her trial by human rights groups Centro Prodh and Article 19, filed an appeal in September 2023 to insist that the military not destroy or hide evidence related to her mother’s disappearance.
“Thanks to CentroProdh and article19mex for this new effort to shed light on the truth of counterinsurgency in Mexico. We team up with the MEH. Enough of state complicity and concealment suffered for decades,” wrote Rios Merino on her X account.
Centro Prodh and Article 19 celebrated the judge’s ruling by issuing a joint statement.
“This resolution recognizes that relatives of disappeared people, such as Alicia de los Ríos Merino, have the right to claim through the appeal SEDENA’s resistance to open its files, as well as to oppose the manipulation and destruction of documents that are key to reconstruct the truth, identify those responsible and obtain elements for the search of the disappeared persons,” read the joint statement.