MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president dismissed the chief of the federal police force Monday, less than two weeks after the country’s human rights commission released a scathing report alleging federal police “executed arbitrarily” at least 22 suspected drug cartel members during a raid on a ranch.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said President Enrique Pena Nieto decided to remove Enrique Galindo to allow for a transparent investigation.
“In light of the recent events and on instructions of the president, Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo has been removed from his position,” Osorio Chong said. “That is with the objective of facilitating that the corresponding authorities carry out an agile and transparent investigation in full view of citizens.”
Earlier this month, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission announced that its investigation found that at least 22 people were killed without justification by police during the operation at a ranch in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. It described them as being “executed arbitrarily.”
The report further alleged that police planted guns on some suspects and moved some bodies to bolster the official version that all the deaths occurred during a gunbattle. In all, 42 civilians and one federal police officer were killed.
Galindo and National Security Commissioner Renato Sales had said they accepted the commission’s recommendations, but denied that police executed anyone. They said the federal officers used necessary force against a heavily armed band of criminals.
After the incident, federal police had said they encountered a truck and took gunfire from its passengers before being led in a chase to the ranch in Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state.
The commission’s report said the government did not produce evidence supporting that account and it said witness statements suggested 41 federal police officers had sneaked onto the ranch as early as 6 a.m. Officers started their assault at least an hour earlier than they maintained in reporting on the incident, the commission said.
According to the commission’s report, after the federal police officer was shot, police called for backup. Fifty-four more officers arrived along with a helicopter.
“I think his position was unsustainable after the CNDH report on Tanhuato,” Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope said of Galindo. “It was just a matter of time. There were too many controversies surrounding commissioner Galindo.”
The federal police have also been criticized for a June clash in the southern state of Oaxaca in which officers opened fire on protesting teachers and their allies in the town of Nochixtlan. Eight civilians died, seven of them from gunshot wounds. Authorities said the police were fired on first, though others dispute that.
Federal and state forces had moved to clear a highway roadblock by the protesting teachers who responded by hurling fire bombs and rocks at police.
Osorio Chong said Galindo would be replaced by Manelich Castilla Craviotto, who had been in charge of the federal police’s gendarmes force.
Hope said Galindo was being replaced with the officer who was perhaps closest to him. Manelich led federal police in San Luis Potosi while Galindo was the head of state police there.
“It’s not a sea change, not at all,” Hope said.
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi contributed to this report.