INE denies México Libre’s application to form political party

Margarita Zavala and former President Felipe Calderón. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

09/15/20 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) made waves in early September when it denied the formation of a new political party. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and his wife, Margarita Zavala, had applied to the INE to launch México Libre (or Free Mexico). The INE rejected the application four votes in favor and seven against.  

México Libre

The timing of the INE’s ruling is part of the reason this story has made headlines, not just because of the party’s high-profile leaders. With Mexico’s 2021 mid-term elections less than one year away, the ruling could jeopardize México Libre’s ability to participate. As such, Zavala and Calderón said that they would immediately contest the INE’s decision, elevating their case to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TEPJF).

Reactions to the INE’s Decision

INE President Lorenzo Córdova explained the decision, saying that there were concerns about México Libre’s funding. He specifically pointed to 8.2% of the proposed party’s reported resources, calling it “opaque money.” The INE had previously fined México Libre 2.7 million pesos for what they found to be financial irregularities pertaining to donations received.

Former President Calderón and his partner, Zavala, however, immediately rejected the INE’s decision “You’re lying, Lorenzo Córdova,” tweeted Calderón. “Each and every one of our donors is perfectly identified. You know it, you hid it. It’s a day of shame for you, for INE and for the memory of Arnaldo, who would be ashamed of your decision,” he wrote (translation by Mexico Daily News). Arnaldo is a reference to Córdova’s late father, a well-known academic and former politician. Calderón and Zavala, the latter of whom is actually the leader of México Libre and is also a politician, also clarified that all of México Libre’s donors were identified. This included the individuals in question who collectively donated just over one million pesos to México Libre through the internet platform Clip.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is seen here at his ranch in Chiapas responding through social media to the INE’s decision. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

Still, current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024) applauded the decision, saying it was a “win” for the Mexican people. He also took a jab at Calderón, with whom he has publicly quarreled since being rival presidential candidates in 2006. López Obrador suggested the former president should appeal the INE’s ruling to “his friends” in Washington D.C., a reference to the Organization of American States. He continued, saying that Calderón should lean on those who helped him “steal” the presidency if he wants to do it again. Zavala fired back, saying “With you [as president], democracy loses [and] Mexico loses.”

The Beginnings of México Libre

Zavala initially proposed México Libre’s creation back in January 2019 with the intent of it being a centrist right party. She stressed that it would not be a rebranding of the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the party under which former President Calderón was elected. Rather, México Libre would be a party for the people, for the everyday Mexican – a party that is not an “extreme.” Writes Mexico News Daily, partially quoting Zavala’s explanation, “México Libre is intended to generate political participation and provide an alternative for like-minded individuals to organize, deliberate, and give themselves heart and soul to the reconstruction of Mexico.”

Mexico’s Political System

Mexico’s democracy has quite a few political parties, though it is largely dominated by four: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional , PRI), the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), and the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA). Adding another party, México Libre, to the mix would seemingly add another option to represent the political will of Mexicans. However, democracies are built on far more than just the number of parties in the system. Considering other factors and variables that make up democratic systems, like rule of law, judicial systems, and elections, Mexico is a “flawed democracy,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

A “Flawed Democracy”

The EIU’s annual Democracy Index that was released in January 2020 looked at the state of democracies worldwide in 2019. The report focused on 165 independent states and two territories, categorizing them on their electoral process and pluralism, functioning of the government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The EIU determined that Mexico ranked 73rd on the list of 167 countries with an overall score of 6.09 out of 10.00 (with 10.00 being the ideal democracy). Only three countries – Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Singapore – separated Mexico from being deemed a “hybrid regime.” Mexico’s overall score has steadily declined year after year since 2010, dropping from 6.93 in 2010 to 6.09 in 2019.

The INE hosted a vote on September 4, 2020, on México Libre.

The report defined “flawed democracies” as countries that “have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems…, basic liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” This aligns with the results of the indicators, which showed Mexico scoring the highest on electoral process and pluralism (7.83 out of 10.00) and the lowest on political culture (3.13 out of 10.00).

Democracy in Latin America

Latin America as a whole did not fare much better than Mexico in 2019.  “Latin America was the worst-performing region in 2019,” the EIU reports, “recording a fall of 0.11 points in its average regional score compared with 2018, to 6.13.” Mexico ranked 16th lowest out of 23 countries in the region, scoring only higher than Honduras (5.42 overall score), Guatemala (5.26), Bolivia (4.84), Haiti (4.57), Nicaragua (3.55), Venezuela (2.88), and Cuba (2.84). Only three nations in the region were considered “full democracies” (Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Chile), whereas the majority of the region’s 23 countries are considered “flawed democracies.”

For more information on the Democracy Index, check out the report here.


“Zavala descarta que ‘México Libre’ sea el nuevo Morena,” Milenio, January 21, 2019.

“Former candidate, ex-president’s wife unveils new political party,” Mexico News Daily, January 22, 2019.

“Democracy Index 2019: A year of democratic setbacks and popular protests.” The Economist. January 2020.

Web page, “México Libre,” Facebook, Posted August 21, 2020.

Ariadna García, “Revés a Calderón y Zavala: INE niega registro a México Libre,” El Universal, September 4, 2020.

“México Libre: ¿Por qué el INE le negó el registro como partido?” El Financiero, September 5, 2020.

Pedro Villa y Caña and Horacio Jiménez, “Así ha sido el enfrentamiento de AMLO con Zavala y Calderón por México Libre,” El Universal, September 6, 2020.

“Electoral institute rejects new political party over ‘unidentified’ funding,” Mexico News Daily, September 7, 2020.

Justice in Mexico Statement against Racism

[Para la versión en español, desplácese hacia abajo]

Dear supporters:

Justice in Mexico stands in solidarity with the Black community and protesters who are demanding the end of racial injustice and systemic racism. For nineteen years, Justice in Mexico has worked to strengthen rule of law in Mexico, but there can be no justice if the law is applied differently depending on the color of one’s skin. The rule of law is a rights-based principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. 

As we all bear witness to countless, tragic scenes that show racial injustice continuing to flourish in our country, we plainly see that too many police officers are not doing their sworn duty to act as guardians of rule of law in our country. Instead, law enforcement officers inflict horror and abuses on the community they are sworn to protect. Promoting rule of law means making sure that everyone is protected by and beholden to fair and just application of the law. This is why the status quo is not acceptable. We support real change to create more justice in our medical, educational, economic and criminal justice systems for our Black community.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, dated April 16, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described scenes that continue to fill our news cycles and screens every day. “When you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” With urgency, we recognize that #BlackLivesMatter

While there is still much work to be done to understand the complex web of inequalities that underlie the current crisis, we are sure of one thing: justice does not happen overnight. Systemic reform, effective public policy, citizen activism, and long-term commitment to change are all necessary steps toward a more just penal system and a more equitable world.

As a staff and organization, we have spent the past week identifying specific action steps that we can take to ensure our long-term commitment to this fight. We recognize that racism and all forms of discrimination are not unique to the United States. As Justice in Mexico moves forward with a willingness to listen and learn, we commit to exploring issues of institutional, systemic discrimination in Mexico, and its impact on the rule of law throughout Mexico. Our hope is to bring greater public awareness to these critical human rights and rule of law issues, to foster conversation and education, and to promote positive change.

We would also like to recognize the efforts of our partner organizations whose research and training initiatives seek to identify and rectify systemic inequalities in our justice systems. Especially in the context of growing opposition to progressive change, these organizations have remained clear-eyed in their vision of equal access to justice and universal respect for human rights. We thank them and all those who support this mission, and we call upon them to remain steadfast in their work as we face the current crisis. Please visit their websites below for more information on these program’s initiatives:

ABA Rule of Law Initiative Mexico

Arizona State University: Voz de la Víctimas

California Western School of Law: Instituto Latinoamericano de Derecho y Justicia

Centro de Estudios sobre la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje del Derecho, A.C. (CEEAD)

Attorney General Alliance

International Republican Institute

World Justice Project Mexico

In addition, we would like to take this opportunity to provide our supporters with a list of anti-racist resources. These resources have been hand-selected by our team in order to promote dialogue regarding systemic forms of discrimination and oppression. We have also provided a list of relevant organizations that are accepting donations:

What can I do?

Learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and its organization, click here.

Learn more about their demands, click here.

Donate if you can. Consider one of these organizations:


Black Lives Matter

The Bail Project

Ways to support black businesses:

Click here for an additional list of bail organizations.

Educate yourself about the issues at hand. Consider some of these resources:

1619 (podcast)

13th (movie) dir. Ava DuVernay

Atlanta (show) on FX

Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

Between the World and Me (book) by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Bluest Eye (book) by Toni Morrison

Brooklyn Library BLM Reading List (This list was created by a librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library. The YA books on this list discuss Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and anti-racism.)

Do the Right Thing (movie) dir. Spike Lee

Get Out (movie) dir. Jordan Peele

If Beale Street Could Talk (movie) dir. Barry Jenkins

Insecure (show) on HBO

Invisible Man (book) by Ralph Ellison

Just Mercy (movie) – free streaming on all digital rental platforms during June

Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico by Christina A. Sue

Me and White Supremacy (book) by Layla F. Saad

Moonlight (movie) dir. Barry Jenkins

Ralph Bunche: Model Negro or American Other? by Charles Henry

Serial, season 3 (podcast)

Sorry to Bother You (movie) dir. by Boots Riley

This is America (music/music video) song by Childish Gambino, music video dir. by Hiro Murai

White Rage (book) by Carol Anderson

Thank you for your support as we continue to work toward improving citizen security, strengthening the rule of law, and protecting human rights in Mexico. We welcome your comments and suggestions as we redouble our efforts in the fight against racism and all forms of systemic oppression.


The Justice in Mexico team

David A. Shirk, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Janice Deaton, Ashley Ahrens-Víquez, Laura Y. Calderón, Rita E. Kuckertz, Teagan McGinnis, Mauricio Villaseñor Herrera

Versión en español

Estimados colaboradores:

El programa Justice in Mexico se solidariza con la comunidad Afrodescendiente y los manifestantes que están exigiendo poner un alto a la injusticia racial y al racismo sistémico. Por diecinueve años, Justice in Mexico ha trabajado para fortalecer el estado de derecho en México. Sin embargo, reconocemos que no puede haber justicia si el derecho se aplica de manera diferente dependiendo del color de piel de las personas. El estado de derecho es un principio basado en los derechos, bajo el cual, todas las personas, instituciones y entidades son responsables de rendir cuentas ante leyes que son: públicamente promulgadas, aplicadas de forma igualitaria, e independientemente adjudicadas.

Siendo testigos de innumerables escenas trágicas que demuestran que la injusticia racial continúa floreciendo en nuestro país, claramente vemos que demasiados oficiales de policía no cumplen con su deber jurado de actuar como guardianes del estado de derecho en nuestro país. Por el contrario, los oficiales encargados de la aplicación de la ley infligen horror y abusos sobre la comunidad que han jurado proteger. Promover el estado de derecho significa asegurarse de que todos están protegidos y sujetos a la aplicación justa y debida de la ley. Por esta razón, el status quo es inaceptable. Apoyamos un cambio real para crear mayor justicia para nuestra comunidad Afrodescendiente dentro de nuestros sistemas médico, educativo, económico y penal.

En su Carta desde la cárcel de Birmingham, con fecha del 16 de abril de 1963, el Reverendo Martin Luther King Jr. describe escenas que continúan llenando nuestros noticieros y pantallas todos los días. “Cuando veas policías llenos de odio maldecir, patear, brutalizar, e incluso asesinar con impunidad a tus hermanos y hermanas afrodescendientes… Entonces entenderás por qué nos resulta difícil esperar.” Con urgencia reconocemos que  #BlackLivesMatter (las vidas Afrodescendientes importan).

Aun cuando queda mucho trabajo por hacer para entender la compleja red de desigualdad que sustenta la crisis actual, estamos seguros de una cosa: la justicia no se hace de la noche a la mañana. Una reforma sistémica, políticas públicas efectivas, activismo ciudadano y el compromiso a largo plazo de crear un cambio, son todos pasos necesarios para un sistema penal más justo y un mundo más equitativo.

Como equipo de trabajo y organización, hemos invertido la semana pasada identificando medidas de acción específicas para asegurar nuestro compromiso a largo plazo con esta causa. Reconocemos que el racismo y todas las formas de discriminación no son exclusivas de los Estados Unidos. Conforme Justice in Mexico avanza hacia la plena disposición de escuchar activamente y aprender, nos comprometemos a explorar los problemas de discriminación institucional y sistémica en México, así como su impacto en el estado de derecho a nivel nacional. Nuestra esperanza es crear mayor concientización ante estos graves problemas de derechos humanos y estado de derecho, para fomentar la conversación y educación, y promover el cambio positivo.

También nos gustaría reconocer los esfuerzos de nuestras organizaciones asociadas, cuyas investigaciones e iniciativas de capacitación buscan identificar y rectificar las desigualdades sistémicas en nuestros sistemas de justicia. En especial en el contexto de una incipiente oposición al cambio progresivo, estas organizaciones han mantenido una visión clara respecto al acceso igualitario a la justicia y al respeto universal de los derechos humanos. Les agradecemos a ellos y a todos los que apoyan esta misión, y les hacemos un llamado a mantenerse inquebrantables en su trabajo mientras enfrentamos la crisis actual. Por favor visite sus sitios web incluidos abajo para más información sobre las iniciativas de dichos programas:

ABA Rule of Law Initiative Mexico (ABA-ROLI, México)

Arizona State University: Voz de la Víctimas

California Western School of Law: Instituto Latinoamericano de Derecho y Justicia

Centro de Estudios sobre la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje del Derecho, A.C. (CEEAD)

Attorney General Alliance (Alianza de Procuradores, anteriormente CWAG)

International Republican Institute (IRI)

World Justice Project Mexico

Además, nos gustaría aprovechar esta oportunidad para proveer a nuestros colaboradores con una lista de recursos anti-racismo. Estos recursos han sido seleccionados individualmente por nuestro equipo para promover el diálogo sobre formas sistémicas de discriminación y opresión. También incluimos una lista de organizaciones relevantes que están aceptando donativos:

¿Qué puedo hacer?

Aprenda más sobre el movimiento y organización Black Lives Matter, presione aquí.

Aprenda sobre sus exigencias, presione aquí.

Considere alguna de las siguientes organizaciones para donar, si le es posible:
NAACP (Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de Personas de Color)
Black Lives Matter
The Bail Project (Proyecto de la Liberación Bajo Fianza)
Presione aquí para información adicional sobre otras organizaciones relacionadas a la liberación bajo fianza.

Edúquese sobre los problemas inminentes. Considere algunos de estos recursos:

1619 (podcast)
13th (película) dir. Ava DuVernay

Atlanta (serie de T.V.) on FX

Between the World and Me (libro) de Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Bluest Eye (libro) de Toni Morrison

Brooklyn Library BLM Reading List (Lista de Lectura Recomendada por la Biblioteca de Brooklyn. Esta lista fue creada por un bibliotecario o bibliotecaria de la Biblioteca Pública de Brooklyn. Los libros en esta lista discuten Black Lives Matter, brutalidad policiaca, y anti-racismo.)

Do the Right Thing (película) dir. Spike Lee

Get Out (película) dir. Jordan Peele

If Beale Street Could Talk (película) dir. Barry Jenkins

Insecure (serie de T.V.) on HBO

Invisible Man (libro) de Ralph Ellison

Just Mercy (película) – reproducciones gratis en todas las plataformas de renta durante junio

Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico por Christina A. Sue

Me and White Supremacy (libro) de Layla F. Saad

Moonlight (película) dir. Barry Jenkins

Serial, season 3 (podcast)

Sorry to Bother You (película) dir. Boots Riley

This is America (canción y video musical) canción de Childish Gambino, video musical dir. por Hiro Murai

White Rage (libro) de Carol Anderson

Muchas gracias por su apoyo mientras continuamos trabajando para mejorar la seguridad ciudadana, fortalecer el estado de derecho, y proteger los derechos humanos en México. Agradecemos sus comentarios y sugerencias mientras redoblamos nuestros esfuerzos en la lucha contra el racismo y todas las formas de opresión sistémica.


El equipo de Justice in Mexico

David A. Shirk, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Janice Deaton, Ashley Ahrens-Víquez, Laura Y. Calderón, Rita E. Kuckertz, Teagan McGinnis, Mauricio Villaseñor Herrera

Sexto simposium internacional OASIS“¿Hacia adelante o hacia atrás?: El futuro del sistema penal acusatorio”

Nos da gusto anunciar que el equipo de OASIS llevará a cabo el sexto Simposium Internacional OASIS “¿Hacia adelante o hacia atrás?” El futuro del sistema penal acusatorio.”

¿Cuándo? del 1 de junio al 5 de junio de 2020, diariamente a las 11:00 horas del pacifico

¿Dónde? en línea. Todo el contenido se publicará en la página oficial de Facebook, OASIS Capacitación sin costo alguno al púbico.

¿Cómo? el lunes 1 de junio daremos inicio con la transmisión de nuestra inauguración EN VIVO, en la cual tendremos el gusto de recibir la asistencia de los directores de nuestras instituciones colaboradoras de OASIS 2020: BUAP, UAA y UABJO. De lunes a jueves, subiremos presentaciones de nuestros distinguidos panelistas que culminarán en una conversación EN VIVO con todos los panelistas el viernes. Todos los videos se archivarán en nuestra página de Facebook, para acceso público posterior al evento.

¿Cuál es el procedimiento si quiero una constancia para este evento? las constancias solo estarán disponibles para participantes que pertenezcan a universidades asociadas, es decir la UNAM, UdeG, UANL, BUAP, UAA o UABJO. Si forma parte de una de estas instituciones, favor de tramitar la constancia a través de su institución. Para obtener más información, consulte esta publicación de Facebook.

¿Es necesario registrarse para el evento si no quiero una constancia? no. Asegúrese de seguir la página de Facebook para tener acceso a todo el contenido.

Si tiene más preguntas, diríjalas a nuestra página oficial de Facebook, OASIS Capacitación. Responderemos a todas las preguntas a través de Facebook Messenger a la brevedad posible.

It is our pleasure to announce the 6th International OASIS Symposium, “¿Hacia adelante o hacia atrás?” El futuro del sistema penal acusatorio”.

When?: This year’s symposium will take place daily from June 1, 2020 to June 5, 2020 at 11:00 AM PST.

Where?: All of the presentations will be hosted on the OASIS Capacitación Facebook page.

How?: On June 1, the OASIS team will kick off the week-long symposium event with an inauguration on Facebook LIVE, featuring the directors of the OASIS 2020 collaborating Mexican law schools, the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes, and Universidad Autónoma “Benito Juárez” de Oaxaca. From June 1 to June 4, we will be uploading presentations from our distinguished panelists daily. The symposium activities will culminate in a LIVE panel discussion featuring all of the panelists on June 5 at 11:00AM PST.

All sessions are open to the general public and are completely free. Please note all sessions will be transmitted in Spanish.

If you would like additional information about our symposium, please visit our Facebook page, OASIS Capacitación or send us a message through Facebook Messenger with your questions or comments.

Justice in Mexico Director Provides Testimony on Capitol Hill

Dr. David Shirk, Maureen Meyer, and Richard Miles (from left to right) spoke on January 15, 2020 at the Committee on Foreign Affairs’ subcommittee hearing, Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico. Photo: YouTube.

01/27/20 (written by kheinle) — Justice in Mexico Director Dr. David Shirk recently provided expert testimony on Capitol Hill. On January 15, 2020, the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, which falls under the House of Representative’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, held a hearing on “Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico.” Dr. Shirk spoke alongside two other distinguished experts in the field, Maureen Meyer with the Washington Office on Latina America and Richard Miles with the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The written remarks submitted for the hearing can be found on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee Repository site.

The Resurgence of Violence

Dr. Shirk’s presentation looked specifically at the public security in Mexico. He began by contextualizing today’s historic levels of violence, which have been on the rise the past decade despite a brief lull from 2012 to 2014. While final figures are still being tabulated by the Mexican government’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), the number of homicide cases reported for 2019 increased to a record of more than 34,000 victims, up from the previous peaks of 33,341 victims in 2018 and the 28,734 in 2017.

There have also been several high-profile displays of extreme violence this past year, noted Dr. Shirk, including the November 4, 2019 killing of nine women and children with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship in two ambush attacks by an organized crime group in Northern Mexico. The botched catch and eventual release of Ovidio Guzman, son of notorious Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in October in Culiacán was also highlighted, which showcased the serious levels of corruption ingrained in Mexico. Thirteen individuals were also killed during that incident. Read more about the record-breaking levels of violence in 2019 here.

Contributing Factors

The presentation then turned to outlining several systemic factors that contribute to this violence. Dr. Shirk first noted the impact of market shifts and innovations in the production of illicit drugs. Changes in the market for illicit psychotropic drugs (including the proliferation of synthetic drugs, like methamphetamine and fentanyl), have led to a restructuring of Mexican drug production and trafficking networks, resulting in newfound competition and violence.

Second, he pointed to the unintended consequences of counter-drug measures. The policy targeting high level leaders for arrest, known as the “kingpin strategy,” has long been questioned by security experts. It often fails to dismantle the mid-level organizational structures and ancillary support that allow organized crime groups to thrive in Mexico. This leads to newfound competition and violence.

Third, one must consider the changing strategic dynamics among organized crime groups, he said. The last few years have seen greater competition, splintering, and diversification among Mexico’s organized crime groups seeking profitability through extortion, kidnapping, robbery (including fuel theft), and local drug dealing.

Finally, Dr. Shirk called attention to the impact of the changes in Mexican government and policy, which has had disruptive effects on existing organized crime and corruption networks, thus leading to greater violence. He specifically highlighted President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s election in December 2018, as well as the unprecedented number of Mexican federal, state, and local offices that also turned over that year. In addition, the president had promised a new, more benevolent approach than his predecessor’s militarized security strategy, dubbing his plan “hugs, not gunfights” (“abrazos, no balazos”). With President López Obrador’s first full year in office as the most violent on record, the effectiveness of the government’s security strategy has certainly been called into question. 

Dr. Shirk concluded his testimony with ten key recommendations for U.S. authorities:

  1. Promote better monitoring and analysis of Mexico’s rule of law challenges;
  2. Assist Mexico in enhancing police and prosecutorial agencies;
  3. Aid Mexico’s fight against corruption;
  4. Strengthen controls to prevent illegal exports of firearms to Mexico;
  5. Establish better controls on money laundering and DTO financial operations;
  6. Strengthen cross-border cooperation and liaison mechanisms;
  7. Prevent blowback from U.S. deportations of criminal aliens;
  8. Allow Mexico to focus its scarce law enforcement resources on domestic security;
  9. Develop explicit performance measures for the fight against organized crime; and
  10. Evaluate alternatives to current counter-drug policy.

Other Observations and Recommendations

Maureen Meyer, WOLA’s Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights, also shared her expertise testimony on security and rule of law in Mexico. Her presentation focused more on justice in Mexico, specifically looking at the country’s “weak rule of law.” She covered topics including human rights violations, the National Guard, criminal justice reforms, the autonomy of justice institutions, government collusion, and the role of U.S. engagement in Mexico.

Richard Miles, the Senior Associate of the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Americas Program, spoke about the 2008 Merida Initiative – the shared agreement between the United States and Mexico that seeks to decrease violence and curtail drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico. Although the Merida Initiative has failed to reach its goal, he argued, it has certainly improved bilateral security cooperation. This in turn has led to further commitments from the U.S. government to continue supporting Mexico’s security and stability – commitments that he recommended need to be dutifully “tracked and measured.”


The three expert testimony witnesses approached the question of strengthening security and rule of law in Mexico from their own lens: Dr. Shirk emphasizing patterns of crime and violence, Maureen Meyer focusing on the weak rule of law and judicial angle, and Richard Miles noting the need to evaluate and reinvigorate efforts under Merida Initiative. Yet there was strong consensus in the hearing on the idea of “shared responsibility” between the United States and Mexico. There was also general agreement that recent discussion about designating Mexican organized crime groups as “terrorist” organizations were misplaced and could lead to an unnecessary diversion of funds from current U.S. counter-terror efforts. When asked why the U.S. government should not deploy all available tools to fight the cartels, Dr. Shirk noted that it is unwise to try to fix a cell phone with a hammer.

Moreover, there was general agreement that the approaches taken by the U.S. and Mexican governments to reducing violence in Mexico have not worked. This includes the failure to address systemic challenges like southbound firearms trafficking coupled with high demand for illicit drugs (United States), the kingpin strategy and “hugs, not gunfights” strategy (Mexico), and the Merida Initiative (bilateral). Given Mexico’s deadliest year on record in 2019, it is clear there is a long road ahead to strengthening the country’s security and rule of law.


“Homicides and Disappearances Reach New Levels in 2019.” Justice in Mexico. January 14, 2020.

Meyer, Maureen. Testimony for the House Committee on Foreign Affair’s Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade hearing on “Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico.” U.S. House of Representatives. January 15, 2020.

Miles, Richard. Testimony for the House Committee on Foreign Affair’s Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade hearing on “Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico.” U.S. House of Representatives. January 15, 2020.

Shirk, David A. Testimony for the House Committee on Foreign Affair’s Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade hearing on “Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico.” U.S. House of Representatives. January 15, 2020.

Website. Committee Repository. “Hearing: Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico.” U.S. House of Representatives. Last updated January 15, 2020.

Washington Office on Latin America. “WOLA’s Maureen Meyer Testifies to House Subcommittee of Rule of Law, Security in Mexico.” YouTube. January 16, 2020.

Alleged Mexican Government Corruption Exposed During the El Chapo Trial

Trial of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Image Source: USA Today.

Trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Source: USA Today.

02/11/19 (written by aferrez) The evidentiary phase of the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the purported leader the of the Sinaloa drug cartel, came to a conclusion on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 after having raised newfound speculation about the extent of the corruption in Mexico.

The trial included testimony from at least 16 of Guzmán’s “underlings and allies, some of whom served as cartel bag men.” Several of these witnesses are among those who made allegations of corruption about Mexican government officials, including members of the current and past Mexican presidential administrations.

According to Alan Feuer of The New York Times, “It is no secret that Mexico’s drug cartels have, for decades, corrupted the authorities with dirty money.” Nonetheless, the testimony of some witnesses brought several shocking allegations. For example, the testimony of Vicente Zambada, son of Ismael Zambada an alleged partner of Guzmán. On the witness stand, Zambada claimed his father had a bribery budget of one million dollars a month, and all of it went to high ranking government officials.

In addition to allegations brought forth by Zambada, another witness named Miguel Angel Martínez brought further allegations against Mexican authorities. According to Martínez’s testimony reported by again by Alan Feuer of The New York Times, the chief of Mexico City’s federal police, Guillermo González Calderoni, was the first official on Guzmán’s payroll in the late 1980s, and has since allegedly provided Guzmán with “secret information on an almost daily basis.” This information included, but was not limited to, the disclosure of a radar system installed on the Yucatán Peninsula by the United States government to track Guzmán’s drug flights from Columbia.

The testimony of such witnesses underscored the fact that major drug trafficking operations necessarily involve some significant level of government complicity. This was point was made especially clear by Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadía, a Columbian supplier of Guzmán, who was quoted by The New York Timesas stating that “It’s impossible to be the leader of a drug cartel in Columbia without having corruption…they go hand in hand.” Abadía testified that in order to traffic drugs internationally, his organization paid off everyone from journalists to tax officials.

As revealing as the trial has been with such examples, some experts think the revelations of corruption only scratch the surface. Feuer notes “the trial is offering a public airing of the crimes of the Sinaloa drug cartel –– but is only revealing ‘what the government would like us to hear.’” Indeed, Judge Brian M. Cogan, who presided over the case, had initially instructed some witnesses that they must refrain from discussing alleged corruption of government officials in Mexico because, “It would needlessly embarrass certain individuals and entities.” Nonetheless, the trial brought forth numerous specific details that suggested high level government involvement in the drug trade.

Perhaps the most shocking allegation of the trial was the claim that Guzmán directed a payment of $100 million dollar to then-sitting president Enrique Peña Nieto. Alex Cifuentes Villa, the Colombian drug lord who delivered the testimony against Peña Nieto, is recorded to have saidthat the Sinaloa cartel was initially contacted by Peña Nieto about the time he was elected president in late 2012, according toAlan Feuer at The New York Times. Feuer also notes that Cifuentes Villa testified that Enrique Peña Nieto asked Guzmán for $250 million in exchange for calling off a nationwide manhunt for himduring the campaign. Both Peña Nieto and the López Obrador government vehemently refuted the allegations brought against them and their administrations on social media and in public statements to the press.

In response to these allegations, the defense counsel representing Guzmán raised questions about the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution. In a quote for an article produced by BBC News Mundo, lead defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman asserted that those testifying against Guzmán are, for the most part, members of the Sinaloa cartel themselves and their testimony is likely intended to gain them leniency on sentences that they are currently serving. Lichtman believes the level of legitimacy of the witnesses is tainted by the fact that they are “men who have cheated all their lives.” Indeed, several witnesses who testified during the trial reportedly struck deals with the prosecution in an effort to receive reduced sentences or U.S. visas.

The final ruling on Guzmán’s fate remains in the hands of the jury, which at the time of this posting was still deliberating on a verdict.  Regardless of the outcome, some analysts raised questions about whether there would be a reckoning for corrupt officials, given the details that were revealed at trial. In an interview with CBC Radio, Anabel Hernández, author of Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, stated, “The trial of El Chapo Guzmán is very symbolic…but the problem is that [it] will not resolve all the corruption, all the laundering of money that exists in Mexico, and that helps the Sinaloa Cartel, and also other cartels, to exist.”

Meanwhile, the trafficking of drugs to the United States continues unabated. Guzmán’s alleged partner, Ismael Zambada, remains at large and numerous other drug trafficking organizations continue to thrive in Mexico. Numerous sources reporting on the Guzmán trial note that this drug trafficking activity and the corruption that results is likely to continue as long as there is a voracious appetite for narcotics in the United States.


Lissardy, Gerardo. “Juicio a ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán: La Batalla Clave De Los Testigos Comienza Con Relatos Épicos De Envíos De Cocaína, Dinero Sucio y Corrupción – BBC News Mundo.” BBC News, BBC, 15 Nov. 2018.

Feuer, Alan. “El Chapo Trial Shows That Mexico’s Corruption Is Even Worse Than You Think.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Dec. 2018.

Tremonti, Anna Maria. “The Current: Trial of El Chapo Won’t Resolve the Corruption That Empowered Him, Says Journalist | CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 7 Jan. 2019.

Feuer, Alan. “Former Mexican President Peña Nieto Took $100 Million Bribe, Witness at El Chapo Trial Says.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Jan. 2019.