Mexico City’s Secretary of Public Security Attacked by Armed Assailants

06/26/20 (written by RKuckertz)- In the early hours of Friday, June 26, a group of at least twelve individuals attacked Mexico City’s secretary of public security, Omar García Harfuch, and his convoy in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood of Mexico City. The attack was carried out just past 6:30 am local time at the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Monte Blanco, where the group of armed assailants was waiting for García Harfuch’s convoy. The attackers used assault rifles and hand grenades, resulting in multiple injuries to members of the convoy and three casualties: two police officers and one passerby. García Harfuch himself sustained multiple bullet wounds, but Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum reported via Twitter this morning that he was “doing well and out of danger.”

Mexico City’s Attorney General Ernestina Godoy announced that an investigation had been opened, with twelve suspects already in custody. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for this morning’s attack, García Harfuch tweeted that members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) were to blame. Mayor Sheinbaum as well as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador attributed the attacks to García Harfuch’s steadfast commitment to ensuring peace in Mexico City and throughout the country. 

As one of the youngest public officials to rise to the top of Mexico City’s security apparatus, García Harfuch has been referred to “the best police officer in Mexico” by the current administration. His career has consisted of numerous high-profile investigations and arrests of members of organized crime groups (OCGs), including Dámaso López Núñez (“El Licenciado”), of the Sinaloa Cartel in 2017. During his tenure as secretary of public security beginning in June 2019, García Harfuch has continued to put pressure on organized crime, coordinating the arrests of well-known OCG leaders such as Jorge Flores (“El Tortas“) of the Anti Union (Anti Unión) and Pedro Ramírez (“El Jamón”) of the Tepito Union (Unión Tepito). Notably, García Harfuch was also largely responsible for the 2017 arrest of former governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte, who had attempted to flee serious corruption charges.

As a result of García Harfuch’s strong stance against organized crime, he has reportedly been subject to numerous threats throughout his career, including direct threats from members of the CJNG. Nonetheless, officials have noted that there is no known connection between any specific threats and the attack this morning.

The attack comes in the midst of rising levels of violence in Mexico, despite stay-at-home orders as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to El Universal, Mexico saw record numbers of homicides in April of this year, with experts calling the rising violence a “second epidemic” parallel to the rising number of COVID-19-related deaths. For more on crime and violence in Mexico during the pandemic, see Justice in Mexico’s recent blog post on public security during COVID-19.

Sources

“Intentan matar al jefe de Seguridad de Ciudad de México.” Chicago Tribune, 26 June 2020.

Monroy, Jorge. “Durazo descarta atribuir al CJNG ataque contra García Harfuch; reconoce que hubo amenazas.” El Economista, 26 June 2020.

Velasco, Selene. “Los golpes al narco de García Harfuch.” Reforma, 26 June 2020.

“¿Quién es Omar Garía Harfuch, el jefe de la policía capitalina?” El Universal, 26 June 2020.

Sieff, Kevin. “Mexico City’s top security official injured in apparent assassination attempt.” The Washington Post, 26 June 2020.

“‘En México hay más gente llorando por la violencia que por el coronavirus’: experto.” El Universal, 23 April 2020.

Loret de Mola, Carlos. “Cómo cayó Javier Duarte.” El Universal, 17 April 2017.

Around the States: Updates on the New Criminal Justice System

12/29/19 (written by kheinle) – Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) has been in effect for well over three years, but each state’s implementation and effective functioning of the system varies widely. From public defenders to prosecutors, and from human rights protections to police officer trainings, the adversarial justice system encompasses many facets. The updates below from around the states demonstrates the NSJP’s breadth.  

Colima

Source: Justice in Mexico

Just over 40% of Colima’s public defense attorneys are being let go due to budgetary cutbacks approved by that state’s Congress in December, dropping the total number on staff from 83 to 47. The president of Colima’s Bar Association (Federación de Colegios, Barras y Asociaciones de Abogados Asociación Civil), Oswy Delgado Rodríguez, spoke on the matter. He lamented that the lawyers affected were valuable, experienced, and able to sufficiently defend Colima’s vulnerable populations. Their loss would have an impact.

The lack of resources allocated to Colima’s public defenders is not unique to the state. According to the Washington Office on Latin America citing México Evalúa, “In 2018, these [public defense] agencies received less than 2 percent of a pool of funds allocated to public defenders’ offices, federal courts, the Federal Police, the National Prosecutor’s Office, and the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims.”

This is compounded by the fact that Colima has regularly been one of the latter states to advance the NSJP. As Justice in Mexico noted in its 2015 report, Colima was one of the last two states along with Hidalgo to approve the reform to implement the NSJP, not doing so until August of 2014. It was also one of the last five states to begin implementing the system itself, again not doing so until December 2014. This left just over 18 months for the state to fully implement the justice system before the constitutionally mandated deadline of June 2016.

Mexico City (Ciudad de México, CDMX)

Source: Justice in Mexico

Mexico City is complying with the nationwide push at federal and state levels to make the Prosecutor’s Office autonomous from the Executive Branch. In effect, this would bolster the adversarial justice system by “strengthen[ing] the public prosecutor’s offices in combating violence, corruption, and impunity,” writes WOLA in a detailed report from November 2019. In a follow up report, WOLA elaborated that this shift would ultimately bring the Prosecutor’s Office’s structure and investigative priorities “more in line with the adversarial system.”

The nation’s capital is doing so, however, in a “unique and innovative” way, argues WOLA. What sets Mexico City’s approach apart from the other 31 states is that the process is rooted in civil society and led by a Technical Commission. As mandated by Mexico City’s updated constitution in 2018, its State Congress is to “select a Technical Commission made up of seven civil society leaders to design a proposal for how to complete the city’s transition toward an autonomous prosecutor’s office,” writes WOLA.

The commission was filled just over a year ago and has since drafted a proposed “Implementing Law” (Ley Orgánica) to help guide the creation of the Prosecutor’s Office, specifically outlining the office’s structure and function. The Law’s main goals in establishing the Prosecutor’s Office are “improving results in high-impact cases, managing case flows and complaint reception efficiently, strengthening institutional professionalization, and ensuring strong internal controls.”

Click here to read more about WOLA’s comprehensive reporting on Mexico City’s Technical Commission.

Michoacán

Source: Justice in Mexico

The State of Michoacán took two key steps in December to strengthen protection of human rights, a pillar of the New Criminal Justice System.

First, the State’s Legislative Committees recommended the naming of Michoacán’s head of the State Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos, CEDH). On December 4, Dr. Jean Cadet Odimba On’Etambalako Wetshokonda was nominated to the ombudsman role, edging out the other candidate, Mtra. Elvia Higuera Pérez. Cadet shared his plans for the CEDH, starting with a “reengineering” of the agency to ensure it can be flexible enough to adjust to the needs of the people. He also plans to ensure all members of the CEDH receive quality training on human rights protections to strengthen the agency’s services. This was Cadet’s second attempt to run for the position.

Human rights were also a key focus of a training attended by Municipal Police from Charo, Michoacán in November and December. The State’s Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General del Estado, FGE) led the course, titled “Updating Police Roles,” which included specific training on human rights vis-à-vis police responsibilities. This portion of the course was facilitated by the FGE’s Director of Human Rights Promotion and Defense, Marcela Verónica Chávez Hernández. At least nine police attended the training.

Sources:

Rodriguez, Octavio and David A. Shirk. “Criminal Procedure Reform in Mexico, 2008-2016.” Justice in Mexico. October 2015.

Cortes, Nancy G. et al. “Perspectives on Mexico’s Criminal Justice System: What Do Its Operators Think?” Justice in Mexico. April 2017.

Hinojosa, Gina and Maureen Meyer. “Mexico’s Rule of Law Efforts: 11 Years After Criminal Justice Reforms.” Washington Office on Latin America. November 13, 2019.

Hinojosa, Gina and Maureen Meyer. “Steps Toward a Functioning Local Prosecutor’s Office: The Mexico City Model.” Washington Office on Latin America. November 25, 2019.

“Ya es tiempo de que Michoacán tenga un ombudsman ciudadano: Jean Cadet Odimba.” Mi Morelia. November 25, 2019.

“Después de las comparecencias, el Panorama se aclara en el nombramiento del Ombudsman Michoacano.” PCM Noticias. December 6, 2019.

“Clausura FGE curso de capacitación a policías de Charo en materia de Derechos Humanos y actualización de la función policial.” Contramuro. December 23, 2019.

De la Torre, Martha. “Gobierno de Colima despide a 40% de sus defensores públicos.” El Heraldo de México. December 26, 2019.

“Hallazgos 2018: Seguimiento y evaluación del sistema de justicia penal en México.” México Evalúa. August 7, 2019.

Allegations of Police Involvement in Rape, Corruption

police allegations draw protestors in CDMX

Protestors in Mexico City at the women’s march rally against the police using the social media handle #NoMeCuidanMeViolan. Photo: AFP.

08/20/19 (written by kheinle) – Systemic challenges have long plagued Mexico’s police forces. Recent investigations into cases of rape and corruption among police in Mexico City and Naucalpan, State of México, respectively, highlight deep-seated issues.

Mexico City (Ciudad de México, CDMX)

Police in Mexico City face scrutiny following allegations that they raped three young women, including two teenage girls. The first case occurred on July 10 when a 27-year-old female was picked up by two Mexico City police officers and taken to a hotel. The victim filed charges two days later alleging the officers raped her there, leading to the detention of one of the two involved officers. The police were members of Mexico City’s Secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Ciudadana).

The second case occurred on August 3 when a 17-year-old girl was walking home from a party in the early morning. The victim reported that four police officers offered to give her a ride home, and then proceeded to rape her in the patrol car. According to the State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) and District Attorney Ernestina Godoy, the victim chose not to pursue charges after the media published her case out of fear and concern. The officers, therefore, have not been charged.

The third case involved a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly raped on August 8 in the bathroom at the Photography Archive Museum (Museo Archivo de la Fotografía) by a police officer. The suspect in that case was identified and arrested the same day. At least one week after the incident occurred, however, formal charges had still not yet been delivered.

Public Backlash

Protestors took to the streets of Mexico City when news broke on the cases, demanding justice for women, accountability, and protection from police. More than 300 people participated in the march for women’s issues on August 13, which escalated when demonstrators broke down the glass doors of the PGJE headquarters. Another protestor tagged Mexico City’s Secretary of Security, Jesús Orta Martínez, with hot pink glitter when he tried to speak to the crowds.

Jesús Orta Martínez

Secretary of Security Jesús Orta Martínez amidst the protestors in Mexico City. Photo: AFP.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum drew a fine line in addressing the events at the women’s march. Sheinbaum, the capital’s first elected female mayor, pledged in July to eliminate violence against women, also known as femicide. She then stressed that justice would be served in the cases of rape allegations and that the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) would be involved in the investigations. Yet she also criticized the protestors for acting as “provocateurs.” “I want to categorically affirm that this was a provocation. [The protestors] wanted the government to use violent methods and in no way will we fall for it,” she said. “There will be an investigation and the prosecutors’ office will resolve it,” she continued.

District Attorney Godoy also stood her ground. “We are not going to fabricate the guilty,” she said, acknowledging that the lack of direct accusations in the August 3 case from the victim has made it tough to act against the accused police officers. Nevertheless, Godoy and Mayor Sheinbaum continue to face public backlash for their handling of these cases.

Naucalpan, State of México (Estado de México, Edomex)

Police in the State of México are also being scrutinized for their alleged involvement in acts of corruption. The Commissioner of Public Security in Nacualpan, State of México, Lázaro Gaytán Aguirre, announced in mid-July that 60 police officers were under investigation. The officers were relieved of their duties while investigations unfold, but were not discharged entirely from the force.

In early August, the local government doubled down on its commitment to rooting out corruption in the police force. Gaytán Aguirre called on citizens to support by reporting incidences of corruption among police. “I invite citizens to let us know and give us the information needed to act,” he said. “I promise that we will protect the information of the informant, keeping it anonymous, so that we can punish and remove the corrupt officers from the force.”

Inadequate Training, Support

The Naucalpan Police exemplify the challenges police face throughout the country. According to Commissioner Gáytan, there had been little to no investment in training, equipment, or uniforms for his force over the past three years. “Naucalpan is deficient in its control and confidence exams,” he said, referencing the measures that police forces take to vet officers. “When there’s disorder, it leads to chaos.”

The current investigation into the 60 officers is part of an effort unfolding this year to clean up the division. La Jornada reported that 80% of the Naucalpan force – 1,300 of the 1,800 officers – will be evaluated for ties to corruption through control and confidence exams. Normally only a third of the force is evaluated annually, but given the three-year hiatus that the Naucalpan Police have had since their last exam, the Commissioner is making a strong push.

Commissioner Gáytan also acknowledged the importance of addressing the factors that drive police to engage in corrupt acts. One specific recommendation he offered was to improve police officers’ career paths and professional perks. “It’s important to create the institutional tools necessary so that they see a career in being in the Police,” he said, arguing that police will be more cautious in “engaging in unjust actions that result in loss of benefits, such as public recognition, scholarships for their children, housing programs, promotions, etc.”

Public Perception of Police

These cases are not the unique to Mexico City and the State of México. For example, 15 local police in Madera, Chihuahua were detained on August 15 for their alleged involvement in thwarting a state police operation against an organized crime group. Two other police officers in Iguala, Guerrero were named in the National Human Rights Commission’s recent report detailing their involvement, and that of the Iguala Police Station, in the 2014 disappearance of 43 student activists.

Given the systemic challenges that undermine the police and the public’s pushback to hold officers accountable, polling shows that the public dissatisfaction with the police. According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI), a large majority of individuals 18-years-old and above who participated in its National Survey of Victimization and Perception on Public Security (ENVIPE) in 2018 found police to be only “somewhat effective” (“algo efectivo”) as opposed to “very effective” (“muy efectivo”). Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) fared the best with 15.4% of respondents grading their effectiveness as “very effective” with 49.1% saying “somewhat effective.” The public viewed State Police (Policía Estatal) worse with 7.8% saying “very effective” versus 43.4% saying “somewhat effective.” Preventative Municipal Police (Policía Preventativa Municipal, PPM) did slightly worse with 5.5% expressing “very effective” and 37.4% saying “somewhat effective.” Traffic Police (Policía de Tránsito) had only 5.1% of respondents say they do their job “very effective[ly]” and 35.1% say only “somewhat effective[ly].”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also openly criticized the effectiveness and quality of the police. He plans to ultimately fold the police into the newly launched National Guard within 18 months. To read more about the National Guard, click here..

Sources:

Oficina Especial para el ‘Caso Iguala.’ “Recomendación No. 15VG/2018: Caso Iguala.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. November 28, 2018.

Chart. “Población de 18 años y más, por tipo de autoridad que identifica según nivel de efectividad que considera sobre su trabajo.” In “Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción sobre Seguridad Pública.” Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. 2018.

Chávez González, Silvia. “Investigan en Naucalpan a 60 policías por corrupción.” La Jornada. July 15, 2019.

Corona, Salvador. “Sheinbaum asegura que a 200 días de Gobierno han disminuido los delitos.” El Universal. July 21, 2019.

“En gobierno de Sheinbaum, vinculan a proceso a 25 policías por corrupción.” Milenio. July 21, 2019.

“AMLO deploys National Guard amidst controversy.” Justice in Mexico. July 24, 2019.

Gómez, Nancy. “CNDH denuncia a 375 funcionarios por omisión y tortura en caso Ayotzinapa.” SDP Noticias. July 25, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. July 26, 2019.

“Policía de Naucalpan va contra actos de corrupción dentro de la corporación policíaca.” 24-Horas. August 2, 2019.

“A Look at Violence in Mexico City: Femicide and Underreporting.” Justice in Mexico. August 7, 2019.

“Mexican women demand justice for girls allegedly raped by police officers in Mexico City.” The Yucatan Times. August 13, 2019.

“Van tres casos de violaciones cometidas por policías de la CDMX en días recientes.” Vanguardia. August 13, 2019.

“Violaciones en CDMX: los 2 casos de adolescentes supuestamente agredidas sexualmente por policías que indignan capital de México.” BBC News. August 13, 2019.

Associated Press. “México: Arrestan a 15 policías locales por impedir operativo.” Houston Chronicle. August 16, 2019.

A Look at Violence in Mexico City: Femicides and Underreporting

Source: SESNSP.

08/07/19 (written by kheinle) — Both the country of Mexico and the nation’s capital city, Ciudad de México (CDMX), have garnered attention for their high levels of crime and violence in recent months.

National Context

As a nation, Mexico is on pace to have the deadliest year on record, according to data released in mid-July by Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (SESNSP). The government registered more than 17,000 intentional homicides in Mexico from January through June 2019, which is 94 victims of homicide per day thus far this year. Another 84,000 cases of intentional assault were reported that time frame, as well as more than 750 cases of kidnapping and 4,230 incidences of extortion.

Mexico City is also seeing elevated levels of homicide with estimates pointing to increases of 10-20% during the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. According to SESNSP, by the end of June, Mexico City had 10,616 victims of violent crime, including homicide, assault, femicide, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and corruption, among others. Mexico City also had the highest rate of mugging (street-level theft) during that time period with a rate of 117.8 cases per 100,000 residents. Animal Político noted that this rate is almost four times that of the national average for such crimes.

Mexico City’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, weighed in on the levels of violence in the capital with regards to women and to the accuracy of reported data.

Violence against Women in Mexico City

 

Mayor Sheinbaum speaks at conference

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum speaks at an event with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in December 2018. Photo: Javier Ríos, Milenio.

In early July, Sheinbaum vowed to eliminate violence against women, also known as femicide. “To avoid and eliminate violence against women … finally, that is the objective,” she said. “It’s not fighting it – the objective is ultimately to eradicate violence. That should be the goal.” Sheinbaum is Mexico City’s first elected female mayor.

Femicide has long been a serious problem in Mexico. Almost half of all women (45%) in Mexico reported being victims of abuse at the hands of their partner, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI). Another 18% said the violence was specifically physical violence. In the first half of 2019, there were 470 cases of femicide with an average of just over 78 cases per month, according to Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security. It is also worth noting that in just the first five months of 2019, more than 80 women were murdered in Mexico City alone.

Mayor Sheinbaum’s announcement is another step in the government’s strategy outlined to eliminate violence against women. As reported by Reuters, “such protective measures have quadrupled [in Mexico City] since last year,” which includes “the strengthening of the city’s 32 legal and psychological support shelters known as ‘Lunas.’”

Verifying Crime Rates

In mid-July, Mayor Sheinbaum’s administration made more news when it released government data on crime levels that call into question the previous administration’s reporting. Since taking office in December 2018, Sheinbaum has been criticized for escalating levels of violence in the nation’s capital. Some estimates said homicides had risen by more than a third since December. The data released in July, however, show that although murders in Mexico City have increased by 12%, violent crimes overall have decreased by 8% since Sheinbaum was elected. Thus, while some numbers continue to rise at lower rates in Mexico City, other crimes have actually reversed course.

Image from Mexico Evalua's Fallas de Origen report

Source: México Evalúa.

Sheinbaum’s administration argued that previously reported data was inaccurate or incomplete. For her part, Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy stated that the previous registry used by officials “was distorted.” She continued to explain that upwards of 24,000 ‘high impact criminal cases’ out of 214,000 reported cases had been doctored and misclassified when entered into the registry. For example, “In cases of rape,” she said, “they were classified as sexual harassment or abuse, or just injuries.” The United Nations stepped in to help reclassify the cases.

A Focus on CDMX

It is not uncommon in Mexico to underreport cases of crime and violence. México Evalúa addressed this topic in its publication, “Fallas de origen: Índice de Confiabilidad de la Estadística Criminal (ICEC).” The study measured the reliability of homicide data that prosecutors and attorney general’s report to SESNSP. Overall, Mexico City scored a 7.20 on the ICEC scale, just slightly below the national average of 7.62. Colima had the best score with 9.57 and the State of México (Estado de México, EDOMEX) scored the lowest with 2.50.

With a score of 7.20, Mexico City “ranks in the second half of the scoring, sitting in the 21st position in the ICEC ranking” of 32 Mexican states and federal entities, according to México Evalúa. The report noted that “there are federal entities that do not have similar conditions and resources [compared to CDMX] yet scored better…” Thus, Mexico City’s reporting of data on violent crimes like homicide falls below national averages and indicates an opportunity for the capital to strengthen its processes.

For more information on México Evalúa’s report, click here.

Sources:

“Homicide Rates and Clandestine Graves Highlight Mexico’s Systemic Challenges.” Justice in Mexico. June 26, 2019.

“Fallas de Origen 2019: Índice de Confiabilidad de la Estadística Criminal.” México Evalúa. July 2, 2019.

Lopez, Oscar. “Mexico City mayor promises to eradicate violence against women.” Reuters. July 9, 2019.

Cattan, Nacha. “Mexico City Says Ex-Government Changed Data to Hide Crime.” Bloomberg. July 20, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Víctimas de Delitos de Fuero Común 2019.” Gobierno de México. July 20, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. July 22, 2019.

Angel, Arturo. “Aumentan homicidios en 18 estados; en Nuevo León y Sonora el incremento fue superior al 65%.” Animal Político. July 23, 2019.

OASIS International Symposium Cancelled due to Earthquake

9/08/17- (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa) Following an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in southern Mexico, Justice in Mexico has cancelled the remainder of their international symposium until further notice. The symposium event is co-hosted by Justice in Mexico’s Oral Adversarial Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Law (Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City.

The earthquake, which occurred late Thursday night, was the strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in the last century. The earthquake struck in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, approximately 75 miles southwest of the town, Tres Picos. At least 26 people have died across Mexico and a tsunami warning is in effect for the southern coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, and Ecuador. In order to inspect for structural damage, President Enrique Peña Nieto closed schools in both Chiapas and Mexico City.

 

Sources

Graham, Chris, et al. “Mexico hit by ‘strongest earthquake in a century’ as magnitude 8.2 tremor triggers tsunami waves.” The Telegraph. September 8, 2017.