Justice in Mexico Celebrates 15th Anniversary

8/23/17- (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa) On August 11th, Justice in Mexico commemorated 15 years of promoting bilateral cooperation between Mexico and the United States, specifically related to rule of law challenges in Mexico. The significant milestone was celebrated with a daytime seminar of several panel discussions at the University of San Diego, followed by an evening reception and award dinner.

The seminar, Justice in Mexico: An Agenda for the Future, was attended by various professional and academic individuals involved in U.S.- Mexico bilateral relations, including the UNAM Law School (Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) participants of Justice in Mexico’s third 2017 OASIS study trip. Several distinguished guests from Mexico attended the discussion sessions, including: Minister Amando Vázquez, Magistrate Alejandro Gonzalez, Magistrate Luciano Angulo, and Dr. Maria Candelaria Pelayo.

Justice in Mexico commemorated their 15th anniversary with a seminar of several panel discussions focused on rule of law challenges in Mexico.

Justice in Mexico commemorated their 15th anniversary with a seminar of several panel discussions focused on rule of law challenges in Mexico.

The panel contributors included: Dr. David Shirk, Dr. Wayne Cornelius, Dr. Max Langer, Dr. Hugo Concha, Mag. Gonzalez, Dr. Pelayo, Dr. Octavio Rodríguez, Lic. Alex Ríos, Dra. Layda Negrete, Mstra. Janice Deaton, Mstro. David Fernández, and Mstra. Susana Peña. The speakers discussed a variety of topics related to the Justice in Mexico agenda, including: the accomplishments and challenges of Justice in Mexico and the initiatives needed to strengthen judicial reforms, combat corruption, and improve legal education in Mexico.

In particular, Dr. Cornelius spoke at length of Justice in Mexico’s achievement in creating the Justiciabarómetro, a database focused on gauging the level of criminal justice reform and the perspectives of judicial officials within Mexico. Although Dr. Cornelius acknowledged that serious challenges remain in Mexico, he pointed out that the Justiciabarómetro 2016 dataset indicates an encouraging increase of favorability for the recent criminal justice reforms. Mexican magistrate of Michoacán state, Alejandro González Gómez, expounded on the remaining challenges, such as the lack of training for judges, magistrates, etc. and the low salary of Mexico’s police officers. Additionally, Maestro David Fernández Mena emphasized the important role of Mexican education institutions in strengthening criminal justice reform.

Following the seminar sessions, the participants were invited to an evening reception, followed by an award dinner. The following individuals were honored for their efforts in promoting democracy and rule of law in Mexico: Edna Jaime (founder and Director General of México Evalúa), José Ramón Cossío Díaz (Minister of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation and professor at the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology, ITAM), Dr. Miguel Basáñez Ebergenyi (ex-Mexican ambassador to the United States and professor at Tufts University), Dr. Denise Dresser (political analyst and professor at ITAM), and Dr. Cornelius (expert on immigration and Mexican politics).

The awarded individuals, sans Dr. Dresser who was unable to attend, led an informative dialogue moderated by Dr. Shirk. The discussion focused on Mexico’s recent establishment of an oral, adversarial criminal justice system and the dual role of judicial operators and legal education in ensuring positive progress. Namely, the panelists discussed the strategies and resources necessary to ensure the success of this judicial transition, as well as expounding on Justice in Mexico’s impact in providing trainings and workshops for judicial operatives.

Justice in Mexico extends the sincerest gratitude to their sponsors and donors for their contributions and support in making the anniversary event possible. The commemoration of Justice in Mexico’s accomplishments and the informative contribution of each individual who dedicated their time to the event inspire Justice in Mexico to continue strengthening and improving rule of law in Mexico.

El Chapo extradited to United States

El Chapo's extradition

Seen here, El Chapo was extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017. Photo: Associated Press.

01/24/17 (written by kheinle) – One year after the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on January 8, 2016, the Mexican government extradited the notorious drug lord to the United States. Guzmán landed in Long Island, New York on Thursday, January 19, 2017 where he faces charges of organized crime, murder, and drug trafficking, as well as illegal use of firearms, money-laundering, and torture, among others.

Although seven U.S. jurisdictions have charges open against him, including Southern California and Chicago, Guzmán will be prosecuted in Brooklyn, NY in the state’s Eastern District Court on a 17-count indictment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “the indictment alleges that between January 1989 and December 2014, Guzman Loera led a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and conspiring to murder persons who posed a threat to Guzman Loera’s narcotics enterprise.”

The Road to Extradition

The DOJ has sought Guzmán’s extradition for years, but the Mexican government did not agree to do so until the requests for the kingpin’s turnover until it approved the most recent application on May 11, 2016, putting the process officially in motion. The decision to approve the extradition was likely influenced by Guzmán’s repeated ability to evade the Mexican government, having escaped from prison in 2001 and again in 2015. Mexico’s inability to securely hold Guzmán was not only a source of public ridicule, but it also undermined rule of law in a country working to establish a stronger judicial system and solidify democratic practices. Still, the extradition came as a surprise on both sides of the border. According to The New York Times, the U.S. government, for example, was reportedly not aware of Guzmán’s extradition until hours before his arrival in NY. Guzmán’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, was also unaware of his client’s departure, having arrived to the Mexican prison where Guzmán was detained to meet with his client only to find his extradition already underway. “I was supposed to visit him today,” said Refugio. “I know nothing about this.”

El Chapo's extradition

El Chapo was arraigned in the Eastern District Court in New York following his extradition. Photo: Univisión.

Some speculate that the secretive nature surrounding the extradition may be part of a bigger political message being sent from Mexico to the United States. In fact, Guzmán landed in NY just hours before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, meaning he was technically extradited to the United States under President Barak Obama, who was seen in Mexico as a strong ally. A U.S. law enforcement official told The New York Times that the extradition’s last minute timing was possibly “politically motivated.” In early January, Justice in Mexico Director David Shirk told the Dallas Morning Times that “Mexico’s willingness to extradite Chapo Guzmán is going to diminish on January 21” once Trump was in the Oval Office. Jorge Chabat, a security expert at Mexico’s Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE), noted that Mexico may have been trying to underscore the benefits of cooperation. “By not waiting to send [Guzmán] to Trump after the inauguration,” he said, “it is a subtle statement saying, ‘We could this for you, too, in the future, if we have a good relationship.” Nevertheless, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) denied such claims. “It has nothing to do with [U.S. presidential turnover,” said PGR Director Alberto Elías Beltrán. He continued, “Everything was handled through terms following international law because we had to promptly make the delivery of the person requested by the United States. Had we not, we would have been out of compliance with international treaties.”

Regardless of the motivation, Guzmán’s extradition is a significant milestone in the war on drugs and the overall U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.

Sources:

Dresser, Denise. “El Chapo(teadero).” Reforma. January 11, 2016.

“The legal battle over El Chapo’s potential extradition.” Justice in Mexico. January 23, 2016.

Levinson, Jonathan. “NAFTA benefits more than just trade, but it needs to be changed,” Dallas Morning News, January 10, 2017.

Ahmed, Azam. “El Chapo, Mexcan Drug Kingpin, Is Extradited to U.S.” The New York Times. January 19, 2017.

“Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán es extraditado a Estados Unidos.” Univisión. January 19, 2017.

Office of Public Affairs. “Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Faces Charges in New York for Leading a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and other Drug-Related Charges.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. “Memorandum of Law in Support of Pretrial Detention.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.