Mexican kingpin “El Marro” arrested in Guanajuato

08/05/20 (written by kheinle) – One of Mexico’s most wanted cartel leaders, José Antonio Yépez Ortíz, “El Marro,” was arrested on Sunday, August 2 in Guanajuato. El Marro is the alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL).

El Marro’s Arrest

The raid that brought El Marro down was a show of force from the Mexican government. Over 1,000 state security forces, hundreds of soldiers, unmanned drones, and two fully-manned helicopters were all deployed to the area, both to arrest El Marro, as well as to maintain peace on the ground. The Yucatan Times reports that the government tracked the cartel boss after receiving a tip about the cartel boss’ movements. Officials had narrowed their search down to four identified homes in which El Marro frequented. Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said they obtained an arrest warrant based on the information gleaned from learning that El Marro never spent more than one night in a location. They also had insight on the location of a truck and food delivery vehicle that were connected to the scene. The operation comes just one month after Mexican officials arrested El Marro’s mother and sister for their alleged roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

The Government Reacts

The López Obrador administration was quick to publicize the El Marro’s arrest. This goes against what the president promised he would avoid, which was “to conduct arrests as public spectacles” like his predecessors had done, writes The New York Times. “It shows how desperate [President López Obrador] is to show he is doing something. The fact is he just did something that he said we would never do,” commented Dr. David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico. “It’s the same old playbook as before.” It is also interesting coming on the heels of the administration’s monumental failure in October 2019 to arrest Ovidio Guzmán Loera, the son of Mexico’s most notorious kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Perhaps the government’s show of force against El Marro was to ensure a similar catch-and-release did not happen again.

Following El Marro’s arrest, police secured the area and surrounding locales to help deter such backlash of violence. They also enhanced their security presence in bordering states, such as neighboring Querétaro that lies just to the east of Guanajuato. Querétaro State Police (Policía Estatal) released a statement saying their increased presence along the connecting roadways is to “maintain peace and social order.”

Violence in Guanajuato

The CSRL has been in a bloody turf battle with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG). The bitter rivalry has driven Guanajuato to be one of the most violent states in Mexico. As Justice in Mexico noted in its recent report, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Guanajuato had the highest number of organized crime-related homicides among states in 2019 with 2,673 cases, according to data from Reforma. In June 2019, Guanajuato State Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo and Mexican officials agreed to enact “Golpe de Timón,” an operation to bolster public security. Violence continued, however, through the end of 2019 and into 2020. In the first half of this year alone, more than 1,725 homicides were registered in the Guanajuato, according to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP).

Still, some are quick to acknowledge the impact of collaborative security operations, like Golpe de Timón, in bringing down El Marro. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau lauded the arrest via Twitter, posting, “Excellent news to start this Sunday: the capture of the criminal El Marro in Guanajuato. Criminals think they are so dynamic and smart, but in the end the good guys will always win.” Time will tell if the removal of the cartel’s leader will quell violence in Guanajuato or if it will have the “fantasia effect” and lead to more infighting within the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, splintering among factions, increased turf battles, and ultimately more insecurity.

Sources:

“The Capture and Release of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán, Sinaloa,” Justice in Mexico, November 5, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, “Incidencia delictiva del Fuero Comun,” Gobierno de Mexico, June 30, 2020.

“Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother,” Justice in Mexico, June 30, 2020.

Laura Calderon et al., “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Justice in Mexico, July 31, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro,” Grúpo Reforma, accessed July 31, 2020.

Azam Ahmed, “Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence,” The New York Times, August 2, 2020.

Emmanuel Rincón, “Refuerzan seguridad en Querétaro tras captura de ‘El Marro,’” Excélsior, August 2, 2020.

Kevin Sieff, “Mexico arrests Santa Rosa de Lima cartel chief ‘El Marro,’” Washington Post, August 2, 2020.

“Captura de ‘El Marro’ es resultado del pacto entre Diego Sinhue y AMLO,” La Silla Rota, August 4, 2020.

Reuters, “El Marro ‘never slept two nights in the same place,’” The Yucatan Times, August 4, 2020.

“Homicidios en Guanajuato, sin relación con captura de ‘El Marro;” AMLO,” La Jornada, August 4, 2020.

López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption

07/14/20 (written by kheinle) – In the first week of July, the López Obrador administration netted two high-profile cases of corruption. One case includes the former governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte. The other involves the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Both suspects will be extradited back to Mexico where they face charges of corruption, among other counts.

Ex-Governor Duarte

Former Governor César Duarte. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Former Governor Duarte was arrested in Miami, Florida on Wednesday, July 8. The Mexican government sought his extradition on corruption charges stemming from an audit of the Duarte administration’s finances. The audit led officials to question “the possible diversion of the equivalent of about $320 million [USD] in government funds in 2016, when Duarte was governor,” writes The Associated Press. According to official documents, there was “significant irregularities” in the administration’s spending. Along with the help of some of his staff, Duarte “embezzled state funds for the benefit of himself and his associates,” the court filings read. He also faces charges of illegal campaign financing. He served as governor of Chihuahua from 2010 to 2016.

Chihuahua Judge María Alejandra Ramos Durán ordered Duarte’s arrest in October 2019 to face said charges. Previous requests had also been made, the first one coming in March 2017 from Chihuahua’s District Attorney. Animal Político writes that since the initial request, Duarte was considered a fugitive and placed on Interpol’s radar. At that time, Duarte was already residing in the United States, where he had swiftly relocated in November 2016 following his time in office. He then proceeded to overstay his temporary six-month visa in the United States. According to Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral Jurado, in the past five years, Duarte amassed more than 50 properties in Florida, New Mexico, and Texas, among others.

The U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Marshals led the effort to capture Duarte. Following the arrest, Santiago Nieto, the director of Mexico’s Treasury’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, UFI), commented, “No one is above the law.” Duarte was arraigned in U.S. court on July 10.

Former Head of PEMEX

One week prior to Governor Duarte’s arrest, Spain approved the extradition of Emilio Lozoya. the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Lozoya ran Pemez – Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company – from 2012 to 2016. The suit against Lozoya, which was opened in May 2019, was the first high-profile case of corruption that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched after taking office six-months prior. Spanish officials arrested Lozoya in southern Spain in February 2020. 

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya and then Governor of the State of México Enrique Peña Nieto at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in 2010. Photo: Flickr.

The former CEO faces charges of corruption, tax fraud, bribery, and money laundering. Some of his alleged crimes tie in with the corruption scandal that unfolded with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. According to the Associated Press, “The court documents say Oderbrecht allegedly offered [Lozoya] $6 million [USD] in bribes to get a contract for renovating an old oil refinery. The Brazilian firm allegedly wound up paying him $5 million.” However, the amount received may be significantly higher, according to conflicting media reports. Some sources say that Lozoya “allegedly took more than $10 [million] in bribes from Odebrecht starting in March 2012.” There are also allegations that Lozoya participated in bribery and money laundering with a Mexican fertilizer plant that Pemex purchased at a rate higher than market value.

Although he continues to deny wrongdoing, Lozoya did agree to cooperate with Mexican officials in the investigation. This does not come as a surprise to some, notesThe Associated Press. “…Many in Mexico had expected Lozoya might implicate others in the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, perhaps including former [P]resident Enrique Peña Nieto…” Lozoya had a close working relationship with President Peña Nieto (2012-2018), who himself had faced serious criticism for his administration’s fledgling efforts to curtail corruption.

Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020

Duarte’s and Lozoya’s arrests come on the heels of a report co-published in June by the Americas Society / Council of the Americas and the consultancy firm, Control Risks. The report, “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020,” looks at Latin American countries’ capacity and capability to ‘detect, punish, and prevent corruption.’” The authors criticize President López Obrador for failing combat corruption despite campaign promises to do so. Read more about that report and its critical findings here.

Still, the recent arrests and agreed upon extraditions in July 2020 are two important victories for the López Obrador administration.

Sources:

Harrup, Anthony and Juan Montes. “Mexican Investigators File Corruption Charges Against Pemex Ex-CEO.” The Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2019.

“Efforts to Combat Corruption in Mexico Exemplify the Depth of the Problem.” Justice in Mexico. June 11, 2019.

Simon, Roberto and Geert Aalbers. “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020.” Americas Socity / Council of the Americas and Control Risks. June 8, 2020.

“Corruption in Mexico Persists Despite Campaign Promises.” Justice in Mexico. June 24, 2020.

“Extreme corruption on charge sheet of Mexico’s ex-oil chief.” The Associated Press. July 6, 2020.

“Spain court approves extradition of Mexico’s former oil chief.” Al Jazeera. July 6, 2020.

“Ex-Mexico governor arrested in Miami on extradition request.” The Associated Press. July 8, 2020.

“César Duarte acumuló 50 propiedades en tres estados de EU, indica Corral.” Animal Político. July 9, 2020.

“César Duarte comparece mañana a través de video en Miami.” El Universal. July 9, 2020.

¿Dónde están los datos?: New Working Paper

06/30/20 — Justice in Mexico, a research-based program at the University of San Diego, released a working paper by Héctor Esteban García García entitled, “¿Dónde están los datos? Reflexiones, conclusiones y retos en la compilación de indicadores de desempeño del Sistema de Justicia Penal Acusatorio.” The study is a result of the #encifras project that compiles a series of indicators curated by Justice in Mexico as part of the “Justicia en Marcha” initiative to measure the Accusatorial Criminal Justice System (Sistema de Justicia Penal Acusatorio, SJPA). Specifically, it analyzes the process of collecting such information and the conclusions that can be drawn from the data. It then highlights the challenges that the SJPA faces and offers several recommendations on ways to strengthen the system’s evaluation process. The results suggest that although some information is sufficiently shared, there is room for improvement. If tracking and reporting was completed on time and in full, it could ultimately strengthen the functioning of the SJPA.

García García describes the complex process employed to gather information related to the functioning of the SJPA. This consisted of identifying 49 indicators that could be used to track the use of specific penal system tools. This included indicators that reflect acts from the crime reporting stage, those that occurred during mediation or restorative justice when the case is not funneled through the whole judicial process, and those that occurred during the court stage (e.g., investigations initiated, oral trials, and courtroom sentences). He drew information on these indicators from 77 public documents spanning 20 Mexican states. He also conducted a series of information requests from the 33 attorney generals or public prosecutor’s offices, and from the 33 judiciaries (both state and federal). Additionally, from April 2018 to July 2019, García García filed requests, which led to 309,141 pieces of data submitted pertaining to the SJPA between 2012 and 2019. This allowed Justice in Mexico to create a robust dataset from which he could analyze the SJPA.

The working paper analyzes who actually shared information, from where, when, and in what quantity. Ultimately, 73% of attorney generals and public prosecutor’s offices and 76% of judiciaries submitted the requested data. Because a quarter of respondents did not share disaggregated information, the author had to aggregate the information using the common denominator to standardize the indicators. By lumping the indicators all into one state-wide yearly total, as 25% of the states did, this prohibits one from analyzing the SJPA’s functioning at the judicial district level based on each indicator. This ultimately hampers one’s ability to evaluate the SJPA and to make necessary improvements or modifications to strengthen the system.

The author also noted that on average, respondents only submitted 74% of the information that was requested. States in the north, south, and southeast of Mexico reported more information than those in central Mexico and along the Gulf Coast. Five states – Campeche, Durango, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo – submitted 100% of the information requested, whereas Guerrero and Querétaro only turned in about 10% each.

García García also highlighted the everchanging capacity and availability of judicial system operators to be able to respond to such information requests. Additionally, those that do respond oftentimes do not use consistent reporting mechanisms, thus making it difficult to analyze data trends over time. For example, the Aguascalientes’ Judiciary only reported 15% of information requested during the first solicitation, but jumped to 51% by the fourth. The State of México similarly increased from 30% reporting to 90% by the end. Other states’ reporting fluctuated, too, but in the reverse, going from higher reporting during the first few solicitations and dropping considerably over time.

Finally, the author noted that much of the data submitted was not detailed enough to allow for the sufficient evaluation of SJPA indicators. This included information pertaining to the use of pre-trial detention (prisión preventiva) and the lack of detail by some states on alternative justice methods used, such as mediation, reconciliation, and restorative justice, all of which are key components of the SJPA.

From the data collected, García García concluded several points about the SJPA’s use, functioning, and effectiveness throughout Mexico.

  • First, the data suggests that the tools that make up the penal system are more frequently used in northern, southern, and southeastern Mexico. When the tools are employed (e.g., oral trials, mediation), it results in quicker trials, reparation agreements, and ‘conditional suspension of the process’ (suspensión condicional del proceso), a special alternative justice procedure that suspends the process when the accused complies with a series of conditions and a reparation plan. The conditional suspension was ultimately found to be the most frequently used tool within the penal system nationwide.
  • Second, pre-trial detention (prisión preventiva) is still used in 38% of the cases when comparing it to the number of indictments reported (autos de vinculación a proceso). Pre-trial detention is used far more widely in some states (e.g., Michoacán, Sonora, Yucatán) than in others (e.g., Baja California Sur, Coahuila, Zacatecas). Still in 51% of the cases, pre-trial detention was mandated by law based on the crime (de oficio).
  • Finally, the information confirmed that oral trials were only used in about 11% of cases when considering the number of indictments reported. García García noted that this could be proof that one of the main objectives of the SJPA – to decrease the number of cases that go through to full trial – could actually be being achieved. Ultimately, the author concluded that judicial systems operators are not taking advantage of all of the penal systems’ tools.

Given the conclusions drawn from the data collected, García García identified three main challenges that face the SJPA.

  • The first he notes is making sure the National Transparency Platform (Plataforma Nacional de Transparencia) is functioning optimally. This platform is intended to be the avenue through which information requests are submitted and responded. Considering the inconsistencies and lack of comprehensive responses that the author received for this Working Paper, he highlighted the concern that civilians are being denied access to full information when they request it.
  • The second major challenge is the lack of instruments or avenues in place to guarantee that attorneys generals, public prosecutors, and judiciaries provide information when called upon. The author drew attention to the Unidades de Transparencia, or the governmental units that are intended to respond to these information requests, highlighting their limited operational capacities as a weakness in the system.
  • The third hurdle that faces the SJPA is the inconsistent reporting by states on penal system processes and tools, and the lack of accountability to ensure they properly and timely respond to information requests. In order to do so, the author suggests charging the Executive Secretariat of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP) or the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) – two agencies who regularly work with data and information – with overseeing the tracking and management of SJPA data. He also suggests the Legislative Branch become more involved, specifically reforming an article in the General Transparency Law (Ley General de Transparencia), among others, that currently leaves the states’ obligation to disaggregate data somewhat ambiguous.

The author offered three key reflections at the conclusion of the Working Paper.

  • First, he reiterated that the data used for this publication was incomplete due to the fact that nearly one third of all respondents did not submit comprehensive or uniform information. Therefore, it was insufficient to fully evaluate the level at which SJPA tools are being utilized and employed.
  • Second, the data showed that some SJPA tools are indeed used more regularly than others, such as the conditional suspension. Meanwhile, the common use of pre-trial detention is concerning.
  • Finally, García García concludes that the challenges of reporting timely and complete data need to be overcome so that analyses of the SJPA can truly focus on improving the system’s functioning and efficiency.

About the Author:

Héctor Esteban García García is a Mexican lawyer native from Aguascalientes. He graduated from the School of Law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and is currently enrolled in a graduate program on Justice, Victims, and Peace Building at the National University of Colombia. He has collaborated with non-governmental organizations dedicated to human rights training and analysis of the criminal justice system in Mexico and has actively collaborated at UNAM’s Human Rights Program. Since 2016, he is a Research Associate at University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico. His academic and professional interests include criminal justice, transitional justice, and human rights.

Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother

Municipalities in the State of Guanajuato.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

06/30/20 (written by kheinle) – Tension and violence is growing in Guanajuato, already the country’s most violent state, after police arrested several family members of José Antonio Yepez, “El Marro.” The mother, sister, and cousin of El Marro, the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cartel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL) and one of Mexico’s most wanted drug kingpins, were picked up on June 20 in Celaya, Guanajuato. Two other women of no familial relation were also detained. Authorities also seized a kilogram of methamphetamine and $2 million pesos ($88,000 USD) during the operation. The women were arrested for allegedly playing key roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

This came as part of a joint operation between the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional), and the Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Guanajuato). Twenty-six other CSRL members were also arrested during the operation at different locations in surrounding municipalities, but they have since been released for lack of evidence, among other technicalities. 

El Marro Reacts

Following the arrests, El Marro released two short videos that quickly went viral during which he threatened to “unleash violence” in Guanajuato if his loved ones were not promptly released. “I’m going to be a stone in your shoe,” he said, directing his ire towards the Mexican government. “I’m going to blow up, you will see… In my mother’s and my people’s name… I don’t fear you.” He also claimed that authorities are working with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), a bitter rival of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. He then spoke of potentially establishing an alliance with other cartels to rise up in response to the authorities’ arrests, and thanked his supporters who had already taken up arms.

In the week since the June 20 operation, more than 100 people were killed in Guanajuato. Vehicles and businesses were set ablaze, narco-roadblocks established, four youth disappeared, and a bomb threat called in at a refinery in the municipality of Salamanca. In a unique turn of events, El Marro’s father, Rodolfo Yépez, was also released from prison on June 26 after having posted a $10,000 peso-bond. The judge who ordered his release and subsequent house arrest also noted the father’s senior age as a concern given the coronavirus pandemic. R. Yépez was serving time since March 2020 for robbery.

Violence in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is the most violent state in Mexico. From January to late June 2020, more than 1,725 homicides were registered, according to data from the Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). As El Universal writes, SESNSP data shows that “from January 1 to June 24 of 2020, about 9.9 homicides occur each day, or a murder every 2.4 hours, an unprecedented statistic for [Guanajuato].” In 2019, Guanajuato registered the highest number of organized crime related homicides with 2,673 cases, according to Reforma.

Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The violence is largely attributed to the battles between the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho.” The two have been in conflict since October 2017 when El Marro “declared war” on the CJNG over the control of fuel theft (huachicol) in Guanajuato, particularly in the municipalities of León, Irapuato, Salamanca, Celaya, and Los Apaseos, also known as the “Triángulo de las Bermúdas.” The control for the territory also lends itself to the cartels’ further control and involvement in drug tracking, kidnapping, and extortion. As Mexico’s most violent state, and with the battle between these two powerful cartels, there is also a large presence of high-power firearms in Guanajuato. El Universalreports that the “use of firearms is at a level not seen in any other state in the country.”

Government Response

Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretario de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC), Alfonso Durazo, announced the government’s new strategy to address the rising levels of violence in Guanajuato. On June 26, Durazo said that more federal troops would be sent to the state, a decision that was in the process of being made before El Marro took to social media to call for violent uprisings in response to his loved ones’ arrests. The Secretary said more information about how the federal and state security forces would work together would be detailed in the coming week.

Sources:

Lastiri, Diana. “Sedena reporta detención de madre y hermana de ‘El Marro.’” El Universal. June 21, 2020.

Lastiri, Diana. “El Marro’ vows to wreak havoc in Guanajuato after his family members were arrested.” El Universal. June 6, 2020.

Martínez, César. “Amarga ‘El Marro’ con más violencia en Guanajuato.” Reforma. June 21, 2020.

Oré, Diego. “Tearful Mexican cartel chief threatens government after mother’s detention.” Reuters. June 21, 2020.

López Ponce, Jannet and Mariana Ramos. “Liberan a papa de ‘El Marro’ en Guanajuato, tras pagar 10 mil pesos de fianza.” Milenio. June 26, 2020.

Monroy, Jorge. “Ante amenazas de ‘El Marro”, gobierno replantea estrategia en Guanajuato.” El Economista. June 26, 2020.

Arrieta, Carlos. “Choques entre CJNG y Santa Rosa dejan mil 179 asesinatos.” El Universal. June 27, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro.” Grupo Reforma. Last accessed June 29, 2020.

Corruption in Mexico Persists Despite Campaign Promises

President López Obrador speaks at the conclusion of the “March Rally in Defense of Oil” in Mexico City in 2013.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

06/24/20 (written by kheinle) – A new report finds that Mexico is faring no better in combatting corruption in 2020 than it did in 2019. The report, “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020,” looks at Latin American countries’ capacity and capability to ‘detect, punish, and prevent corruption.’ It does so against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, noting that “in this environment of emergency spending, relaxed controls, and remote working, the risk of corruption and mismanagement of funds has increased.”  Roberto Simon, Senior Director of Policy at the Americas Society / Council of the Americas based in New York, and Geert Aalbers, a partner at Control Risks consultancy organization out of London, co-authored the report that published on June 8, 2020.

Corruption at the National and Regional Levels

Of the 15 Latin American countries included in the Capacity to Combat Corruption index, Mexico ranks in the center in the eighth position with an overall score of 4.55 out of 10.00, just slightly slower than its 2019 score of 4.65. Uruguay ranked highest on the list with the most effective means to combat corruption with a score of 7.78. Continuing to face a humanitarian, political, and economic crisis, Venezuela ranked lowest on the list with a 1.52. The scores are based on 14 indicators (e.g., independence of judicial institutions, strength of investigate journalism) and three sub-categories (legal capacity; democracy and political institutions; and civil society, media, and the private sector). Data is collected from a range of international and national sources, including the World Bank and UNESCO, and from surveys conducted by the report’s co-author, Control Risks.

Looking at the three sub-categories, Mexico ranked eighth region-wide in legal capacity with a score of 4.15 out of 10.00. It also ranked eighth in democracy and political institutions (4.55 of 10.00), and sixth in civil society, media, and the private sector (6.24 of 10.00).

AMLO’s Campaign to Combat Corruption

When looking at levels of corruption since 2019, the report summarizes that “not much has changed for Mexico. In fact,” it continues, “the country has stagnated and maintains a poor ability to detect, punish, and prevent corruption.” This highlights the failure of the López Obrador Administration to adequately address corruption despite campaign promises to do so. “One of the most important [factors that explains Mexico’s paralysis] is having not yet advanced long-term institutional reform.” The authors call out several specific concerns.

First, President López Obrador has largely bypassed or “ignored” the checks put in place by the National Anticorruption System (Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción, SNA). Second, the president has increased the use of public funds on massive infrastructure projects and on combatting the coronavirus. For its part, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates Mexico’s already fraught struggles to combat corruption with the government’s largely unchecked spending amidst real-time, emergency, public health responses. “This combination will only increase the risk of more corruption,” cautions the report.

Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signs into law the National Anticorruption System in July 2016. Photo: Flickr, Presidencia de la República Mexicana.

Third, the president has continued to undermine and diminish the role of nongovernmental organizations and civil society – a sector that had grown more active in recent years in combatting corruption and calling attention to the need for reform. Finally, the nation’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, UFI) has “drastically expanded its activities” in bringing potential cases of corruption against institutions, which ironically has reduced the independence and efficiency of the very anti-corruption agencies that it monitors, writes El Universal. When comparing such independent variables at the regional level, “Mexico appears to be ranked significantly below other countries like Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, and more closely to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.”

Public Perception and High-Profile Cases

Corruption in Mexico is nothing new. According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2019, 44% of Mexicans interviewed in 2019 thought corruption had increased in the previous 12 months. An additional 34% of respondents had paid a bribe in the previous 12 months, a 10% decline from 2017. When asked if they believe most or all people involved in certain institutions are corrupt, 69% of respondents said police are, 58% said government officials are, and 65% said members of Congress are.  

Still, the López Obrador Administration has made some noteworthy investigations into high profile cases of corruption. This includes against the former Secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the former head of Altos Hornos de México, and more than a dozen sitting judges and magistrates, including a Supreme Court Justice. Despite these advances, such cases of high-ranking officials and the general presence of corruption throughout Mexico’s government demonstrate just how pervasive and rooted the problem is.

Sources:

“Efforts to Combat Corruption in Mexico Exemplify the Depth of the Problem.” Justice in Mexico. June 11, 2019.

“Global Corruption Barometer: Latin America & The Caribbean 2019: Citizens’ Views and Experiences of Corruption.” Transparency International. September 2019.

Website. “Global Corruption Barometer: Latin America and the Caribbean: Mexico.” Transparency International. September 2019.

“Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security arrested in Texas.” Justice in Mexico. December 19, 2019.

“México sigue reprobado en lucha anticorrupción, según Índice de Capacidad para Combatir la Corrupción 2020.” El Universal. June 8, 2020.

“The 2020 Capacity to Combat Corruption Index.” Americas Society / Council of the Americas. June 8, 2020.

Simon, Roberto and Geert Aalbers. “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020.” Americas Society / Council of the Americas and Control Risks. June 8, 2020.

Bugarin, Inder. “Con la 4T, ven estancado combate a la corrupción en México.” El Universal. June 10, 2020.

“The 2020 Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index.” Americas Quarterly. Last accessed June 21, 2020.