Mexican judicial system needs reform, says Senate committee


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommends Congress spend $1 billion over the next four years to reform Mexico's law-enforcement and judicial systems, part of a continuing effort to stem the violent drug wars that have claimed 55,000 lives since 2006.

In a July 12 majority report (.pdf), the committee also argues that stronger, better-trained state police are better suited to combat drug violence than Mexico's military, which it says has a history of human-rights abuses.

The committee, chaired by Sen. John Kerry ( D-Mass.), hopes the United States can advise President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto's administration under the 2008 Mérida Initiative forged in 2008 between outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón and then-President George W. Bush.

One major problem: Many Mexicans doubt their government can prevail against the horrific drug violence, concludes the committee's investigators, who traveled to Mexico for their research.

"At the core of these doubts is the government's inability to clamp down on the hyper-violence occurring in certain parts of Mexico," the report says. "Simply put, most Mexicans mistrust the federal and state authorities' main tools to fight crime, the police and judicial system, given their record of pervasive corruption and ineffectiveness."

Among the report's recommendations:

  • Committing $250 million per year for the next four years to help Mexico "accelerate the establishment of an accusatorial judicial system at the federal and state levels and drive reform of state police forces through a "train-the-trainer" model.
  • Stressing to the Nieto administration the U.S. support for long-term, and perhaps accelerated, reform.
  • Increasing U.S. assistance in establishing accountability programs to combat corruption in Mexico's federal and state police forces, such as vetting personnel and establishing "empowered, autonomous" internal investigative units.
  • Helping Mexico provide more resources to and focus more reform efforts on state-level police rather than federal law enforcement, since most drug violence falls within state jurisdiction.
  • Reducing the military's role in domestic security by strengthening police capabilities.
  • Strengthening the capabilities of state-level prosecutors.
  • Promoting awareness of judicial-reform efforts, especially successful new initiatives.
  • Making the protection of human rights the core of judicial and police reform efforts.

"Mexico's presidential transition provides a new window to discuss and debate the best security strategies to deal with the serious violence plaguing Mexico," Kerry says in a statement. "Mexicans have committed to these fundamental reforms and as tough as they will be to implement, they are fundamental for any sustained reduction in violence in Mexico. These are worthy efforts that must succeed."

Ranking minority member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), issued no comments on the majority report.

Julie Bird is a freelance reporter.

For more:
- read an announcement of the report
- download the report, "Judicial And Police Reforms In Mexico: Essential Building Blocks For A Lawful Society" (.pdf)

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