Quintana Roo Police Violently Disperse Feminist Protest

Content warning: the following blog post contains mentions of sexual violence and assault

11/20/20 (written by vrice)— On November 9 at around 4:00pm, 2,000 protestors marched to the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía Central), located in the city of Cancún. Demonstrators gathered to demand justice for Bianca Alejandrina Lorenzana Alvarado (“Alexis”) and implore the government to take more substantial action against femicide. The 20-year-old had gone missing on November 7, and her body was found two days later, dismembered in trash bags. The police of Benito Juárez, the municipality where Cancún is located, violently dispersed the protestors who had gathered. Four journalists were injured, two of which suffered bullet wounds, and two of the eight detained demonstrators reported sexual assault by the police. These acts are a reflection of a larger pattern of police repression of feminist protests and attacks on journalists in Mexico.

Feminist demonstrators outside the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office. Photo: Lourdes Cruz (EFE) via El País

To Serve and Protect?

On the evening of November 9, 50 Benito Juárez police officers began firing on feminist protestors who attempted to break into the Attorney General’s Office. Following the event, the head of the police force, Eduardo Santamaría, was dismissed on grounds of “abuse of power” for ordering officers to fire on protesters. Santamaría argued that he had ordered officers to fire into the air, but demonstrators reported seeing police aim directly at protestors. Despite the otherwise peaceful nature of the protest, journalists Cecilia Solís (from the media outlet Energy FM) and Roberto Becerril (from The Truth News, La Verdad Noticias) suffered gunshot wounds in the leg and arm, respectively. 

The Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office falsely claimed no protestors had been detained via Twitter, despite reports from the Network of Quintana Roo Journalists (Red de Periodistas de Quintana Roo) that eight people had been detained a few hours prior. The Quintana Roo Human Rights Commission (La Comisión de los Derechos Humanos del Estado de Quintana Roo), whose personnel provided support to the detainees, corroborated the Network’s claims.

In addition to the police shootings, Animal Político reported that police used excessive force and sexually assaulted two peaceful demonstrators, María Elena and Quetzalli, after arresting them. María Elena also recounted seeing police aggressively beat a woman at the protest, even after she told them she was merely a journalist doing her job. Another journalist, Selene Hidrogo from Sipse TVCUN, cited how the police explicitly targeted reporters who attempted to record and broadcast the violence. Julián Ramírez, director of Cancún’s Kukulcán high school where he once had Alexis as a student, was detained at the protest and severely beaten by law enforcement. He shared that upon telling the police that Alexis was his student, the officers said they were going to “leave him worse off than her” (“me dijeron que me iban a dejar peor que ella”). After being released at 9:30pm the night of the protest, María Elena, Quetzalli, and Julián went to the State Human Rights Commission to file complaints.

The alleged abuses of power by the local police are in direct violation of the municipality’s law enforcement bylaws. Article 20, Sections V states that police must, “treat all persons with respect, abstaining from any arbitrary acts and from unduly limiting the public’s ability to carry out peaceful manifestations in exercise of their constitutional rights.” Additionally, Section VIII states that police must, “ensure the life and physical integrity of detained persons until the Public Ministry or a competent authority is available.” Given these clear legal violations, the actions of the Benito Juárez police have been met with widespread condemnation.

Will Chorus of Condemnations Translate Into Meaningful Action?

Hours before the protest, Mara Lezama, the Municipal President of Benito Juárez, tweeted, “Cancún is a city of liberties and rights, and because of this free, peaceful demonstrations will be protected.” After news of the shooting surfaced, Lezama tweeted again and released a video saying that she rebukes all acts of violence and that she had ordered an investigation into the “illegal and immoral” police actions. Carlos Joaquín González, Governor of Quintana Roo, also took to Twitter to clarify that he had given specific instructions that no aggression or weapons be used against protestors. The chorus of condemnations continued with Quintana Roo Chief of Police Alberto Capella, who deemed the police repression inacceptable and said that security camera footage would be reviewed to determine the perpetrators. Capella even resigned the next day in order to conduct an unbiased investigation. Gerardo Solis Barreto, the Secretary of the Benito Juárez City Council, also resigned in protest of the police’s actions, while also filing a complaint that police violated the Law on the Use of Force (Ley de Uso de la Fuerza).

At his daily morning press conference on November 10, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said that an investigation must be conducted into what occurred in Cancún, and that those responsible must be punished. The President denied that the National Guard took part in the repression, which journalists present at the protest confirmed—with the caveat that the officers were bystanders during the abuses. AMLO said that if Governor Joaquín failed to carry out these investigations, then bodies like the National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) would have to intervene. For their part, the CNDH released a communication on November 10 rebuking the police repression. In it, the CNDH cited how the Inter-American Human Rights System (Sistema Interamericano de los Derechos Humanos) stipulates that in public demonstrations, state operatives must only use as little force as possible with the ends of protecting protestors. The Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior) and Mexican chapters of Amnesty International and United Nations Women echoed the condemnations. 

Beyond digital denouncements, feminists in Mexico City (Ciudád de México, CDMX) organized a protest against femicide and the Benito Juárez police repression on November 11, outside of the Quintana Roo government office in the Colonia Roma district. City police surrounded the building with riot shields to prevent any attempted entry by demonstrators. Observers from the CDMX Human Rights Commission (Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Ciudad de México, CDHCM) were in attendance to make sure no rights violations occurred.

Police surrounding the Quintana Roo government office in CDMX to prevent protestors from entering. Photo: Animal Político

The Larger Pattern of Oppression

Femicides and police violence against feminist protestors and journalists are part of a larger pattern in Quintana Roo and Mexico as a whole. In 2020, twelve femicides have already been registered in Quintana Roo. Moreover, Atizapán Municipal Police in the state of Mexico (Estado de México) violently attacked feminist demonstrators in September, while in Mexico City protestors marching for International Safe Abortion Day were teargassed and beaten. Just one day before the Cancún demonstration, Cuautitlán Municipal Police, also in the State of Mexico, tear gassed protestors. The demonstrators were demanding justice for the femicide of 17-year-old Ámbar Viridiana Uicab Tapia, who was found on November 6 in a sewage canal after having gone missing since October 23. These demonstrations in Atizapán and Cuautitlán are a product of the dangerous environment women face in the State of Mexico, which last year recorded the second highest number of femicide cases in the country. Mexico City also registered the greatest number of sex crimes of any city nationwide in 2019—accounting for nearly 13% of the national total for that year. Such violent police repression of feminist protests only seems to further impede women’s access to justice across Mexico. 

Not only is Mexico one of the most dangerous countries for women, but it also consistently ranks amongst the most unsafe nations in the world for journalists. During 2019, the country recorded three times as many journalist murders than any other country worldwide. This threatening media climate is reflected in Mexico’s ranking of 143rd out of 180 countries on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, even behind less democratic countries like Nicaragua (117th, rated “not free” at 31/100 by Freedom House), and South Sudan (138rd, rated “not free” at -2 by Freedom House). For reference, Freedom House has rated Mexico “partly free” with a score of 62/100. Moreover, over the last month, three journalists have been killed in Mexico: Arturo Alba (Ciudad Juárez), Jesús Alfonso Piñuelas (Sonora), and Israel Vazquez Rangel (Guanajuato). 

Attacks on peaceful protestors and journalists like those in Cancún and across the State of Mexico, for example, undermine Mexicans’ constitutional rights—even more so when they come at the hands of the police. Damaging effects on citizens’ sense of trust and security are reflected in the 2020 Gallup Law and Order Index. Public opinion polls from the index display how Mexican citizens’ confidence in local police is the second lowest in all of Latin America. Venezuela, which is currently under the authoritarian dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, was the only country where citizens exhibited lower confidence in local police than in Mexico.

Sources:

“Reglamento para la función policial del municipio de Benito Juárez, Quintana Roo.” Periódico Oficial del Gobierno del Estado. May 4, 2007. 

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

“Global Law and Order.” Gallup. 2020. 

“Index Details: Data of press freedom ranking 2020.” Reporters Without Borders. 2020. 

“Mexico.” Freedom House. 2020. 

“Nicaragua.” Freedom House. 2020. 

Ray, Julie. “Most of the World Remains Confident in Police, Feels Safe.” Gallup. October 27, 2020

“South Sudan.” Freedom House. 2020.

Jiménez, Rebeca. “Encuentran el cuerpo de Ámbar Viridiana, de 17 años, en Cuautitlán.” El Universal. November 7, 2020.

Martínez, Rafael. “A balazos, policía de Cancún dispersa protesta feminista.” El Sol de México. November 9, 2020.

“Policías disparan para dispersar protestas por asesinatos de mujeres en Cancún; al menos 4 heridos.” Animal Político. November 9, 2020. 

Ríos, Mariana. “En Cancún, policías dispersan con balazos protesta por feminicidios.” Milenio. November 9, 2020. 

“Varios heridos en protesta feminista en Cancún por la muerte de una joven.” Reuters. November 9, 2020. 

Diaz, Lizbeth. “Rights groups seek investigation of police use guns at Mexican protest.” Reuters. November 10, 2020. 

“Disparos en protesta en Cancún fueron acción planeada, acusa Red Feminista; piden salida de Capella.” Animal Político. November 10, 2020. 

Guillén, Beatriz. “La ONU pide que se investiguen los disparos de la policía en la protesta feminista de Cancún.” El País. November 10, 2020. 

“‘Nada de estar protegiendo a nadie’: AMLO pide a gobernador de Quintana Roo aclarar disparos en protesta.” Animal Político. November 10, 2020. 

“ONU Mujeres condena represión a protesta feminista en Cancún.” El Universal. November 10, 2020. 

Varillas, Adriana. “Señala gobernador de Quintana Roo a director de policía como responsable de represión en protesta feminista.” El Universal. November 10, 2020. 

Wattenbarger, Madeleine. “Mexico police open fire on femicide protest in Cancún.” The Guardian, November 10, 2020. 

“Policías encapsulan a mujeres que protestan en CDMX contra feminicidios y represión en Cancún.” Animal Político, November 11, 2020. 
Vega, Andrea. “Mujeres detenidas durante protesta en Cancún denuncian agresiones sexuales de los policías.” Animal Político. November 11, 2020.

American teen killed in Mexico in latest instance of police violence

06/25/20 (written by JHale)- In a widely circulated video online, a coffin emblazoned with a glossy image of Our Lady of Guadalupe lies adjacent to a makeshift soccer goal. A young man passes a ball so that it ricochets off the coffin and into the bottom right corner. Immediately, a group of individuals dressed in white swarms the coffin, jumping up and down and celebrating. Inside the coffin lies the body of Alexander Martínez Gómez, a 16 year old soccer player who dreamt of becoming a star before he was killed in Mexico’s most recent incident of police violence (Miranda, “Despide Multitud a Alexander”).

A troubling incident

An American citizen born in North Carolina, Gómez was visiting family in Oaxaca at the time of the shooting (“Mexico Police Officer Investigated”). Gómez split his time between the two countries, but hoped to move to Mexico permanently to become a professional soccer player. This dream would come to an end on the night of June 9th, when he was killed by police. The incident occurred as Gómez and a friend were riding motorbikes to a local store when, according to official reports, a police car with its lights off stopped ahead of the duo and blocked the road. An officer exited the vehicle and opened fire without warning. Alexander was killed, while his companion lost control of his motorbike and was injured (Miranda, “Dan Prisión Preventiva”).

The incident prompted a swift reaction from multiple parties. Gómez’s mother released a video to social media denouncing the police and asserting that her son had been denied first aid after the shooting. The town of Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa, where Gómez was killed, issued a statement expressing that the officer’s actions were not in bad faith (Agren). Nonetheless, the Attorney General of the State of Oaxaca (Fiscalía General del Estado de Oaxaca, FGEO) secured a judge’s approval to preemptively detain Alexander’s accused killer. Furthermore, prosecutors told reporters that the accused officer would be charged to the full extent of the law (Miranda, “Dan Prisión Preventiva”).

An uncertain road forward

As outraged locals demanded justice, officials hurried to provide solutions. The Secretary of Public Safety of Oaxaca (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca, SSPO) promised changes, including greater accountability and increased training of police. Many local residents and members of Gómez’s family have rejected the police entirely, calling for the protection of Mexico’s National Guard. The SSPO expressed understanding, even going so far as to suggest that a National Guard base would be installed in the local municipal center (Rangel). It is still unclear whether the National Guard has a plan in place to prevent the same abuses of power that have plagued local police forces. 

Mexico’s police force has come under increased scrutiny after recent instances of violence against unarmed citizens. The killing of Alexander Gómez follows the death of construction worker Giovanni López in police custody after being detained for not wearing a facemask (“Giovanni López: ‘Justicia Para Giovanni’”). Both incidents have sparked protests, riots, and challenging conversations surrounding the role of police in enforcing justice in Mexico. It remains to be seen whether outrage over police brutality will lead to concrete changes in law enforcement practices.

Sources

gren, David. “Mexico: US Teenager Shot Dead by Police in Oaxaca.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/10/mexico-teenager-oaxaca-police-shot-dead.

Miranda, Fernando. “Dan Prisión Preventiva a Policía Que Presuntamente Asesinó a Alexander.” El Universal, 13 June 2020, 10:24, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/dan-prision-preventiva-policia-que-presuntamente-asesino-alexander.

Miranda, Fernando. “¡Queremos Justicia! Despide Multitud a Alexander, De Blanco y Con Globos Azules.” El Universal, 12 June 2020, 12:08, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/alexander-se-despidio-de-la-cancha-con-un-ultimo-gol-su-familia-clama-justicia.

Associated Press. “Mexico Police Officer Investigated for Alleged Murder of Boy.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 June 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/protest-over-mexico-police-killing-of-mexican-american-teen/2020/06/12/faeb494c-ad17-11ea-a43b-be9f6494a87d_story.html.

Rangel, Alejandro. “Familia De Alexander Rechaza Las Policías De Acatlán; Piden a La Guardia Nacional.”

Https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/Estados/Familia-De-Alexander-Rechaza-Policias-De-Acatlan-Piden-La-Guardia-Nacional, 12 June 2020, 20:29, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/familia-de-alexander-rechaza-policias-de-acatlan-piden-la-guardia-nacional.

Redacción. “Giovanni López: ‘Justicia Para Giovanni’, El Caso De Brutalidad Policial Que Conmociona a México.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 5 June 2020, www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-52935685.

El Universal. “Vinculan a Proceso a Policía De Acatlán Por Asesinato De Alexander.” El Siglo, El Siglo De Torreón, 18 June 2020, www.elsiglodetorreon.com.mx/noticia/1713183.vinculan-a-proceso-a-policia-de-acatlan-por-asesinato-de-alexander.html.

Attacks Against Police Highlight Violence in Guanajuato

12/25/19 (written by kheinle) — Guanajuato continues to be one of the most violent states in Mexico. A recent string of 13 police officers killed in just 11 days highlighted Guanajuato’s ongoing challenges with crime and violence. 

Police Under Attack

Officer Maria Sonia Arrellano was kidnapped and killed on December 10. Source: Mexico Daily News.
Officer Maria Sonia Arrellano was kidnapped and killed on December 10. Source: Mexico Daily News.

The most recent occurred on December 19 when the head of Acámbaro’s Public Security (Seguridad Pública), Jorge Valtierra Herrera, was murdered. He was shot outside his home at 7:15am along with his bodyguard who suffered severe injuries. Valtierra had only been in charge of Public Security since July, having taken over for his predecessor, Alejandro Rangel Amado, who was murdered on July 22. Rangel himself had taken on the position when his predecessor was gunned down just one week before during an ambush at the house of Acámbaro’s Commissioner of Public Security.

Just days before Valtierra’s December 19 murder, Officer Gabriela Núñez Duarte was shot and killed in Irapuato on December 14 inside her patrol car in Irapuato. Her partner survived the attack. Prior to that, on December 11, police were ambushed inside the Villagrán Police Station after armed members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) rushed the station. Three officers were shot and killed onsite. Four more were kidnapped; their bodies later discovered on the surrounding highway. The CJNG also claimed responsibility in the killing of María Sonia Arellano, a well-respected police officer who was known to be tough on local crime. She was kidnapped on December 10 from her home in Irapuato along with her husband and their son. Arellano’s body was later found dismembered with a cardboard message reading CJNG. Just two days before Arellano’s death, on December 8, two more officers were killed in León and Celaya. It is not clear if the CJNG claimed responsibility in those killings.

The recent rash of crime in violence in Guanajuato is not new. In July of this year, for example, another outbreak occurred in the state with four attacks on police in ten days. Two officials were killed, including the head of the Attorney General’s Antinarcotics Unit (Unidad Antidrogas de la Fiscalía General del Estado, FGE), Francisco Javier.

Federal Response

In response to the outbreak in violence against police, members of Mexico’s National Guard (Guardia Nacional) are being sent to reinforce the situation in Irapuato, Guanajuato. The mayor, Ricardo Ortiz Gutiérrez, announced that hundreds of additional National Guard troops were set to arrive on December 17, adding to the 200 already stationed there as part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ongoing security strategy.

Source: BBC News

Mayor Ortiz Gutiérrez emphasized how important it will be to ensure coordination and communication between the different security agencies on the ground, including local, state, and now federal. “Now what we need to ensure is good coordination, a strong front made up just as much by Municipal Police (Policía Municipal) and State Police (Policía del Estado),” he said, “so that we can truly be more efficient in our work, not going at it alone, but truly a united force that can confront [the challenge].”

Before the influx of new National Guard troops arrived, however, security challenges boiled over with the agents already on the ground. In the early hours of the morning, members of the National Guard clashed with a group of armed civilians in a neighborhood in Irapuato that resulted in the death of one National Guard agent and seven civilians. The day after, Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez announced that members of the Mexican Navy (Marina) would be joining the National Guard troops to try to pacify the situation.

Crime and Violence Statewide

In general, violence in Guanajuato has increased dramatically in recent years. Justice in Mexico’s most recent “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico” report published April 2019 explored the issue. The authors found that Guanajuato had the second highest number of intentional homicide cases (2,609) in 2018, according to data from the Mexican National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP). It also was the state with the largest annual increase in total homicides, which saw more than double the 1,084 homicides registered in 2017. Much of that increase was concentrated in the cities of Irapuato (374 homicides) and León (350), but several smaller towns registered dozens of homicides each, including at least nine municipalities with homicide rates in excess of 100 per 100,000. Guanajuato also had the highest number of organized-crime style homicides in 2018 with 2,233, according to data reported by the Mexican newspaper Milenio. It is currently on track to be the most violent state in the nation in 2019, according to SNSP data.

Data collected from Milenio shows Guanajuato’s dramatic increase in organized-crime-style homicides from 2017 to 2018. Source: Justice in Mexico.

Much of this violence appears to be linked to the problem of petroleum theft (huachicol) and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL). Guanajuato is an alternative distribution channel through which stolen petroleum is transited. It became a hotly contested corridor in 2018 among organized crime groups like the CJNG and the CSRL, the latter cartel which actually came into existence after a split from the former in 2017. The BBC News reports that some of the continued violence threatening Guanajuato can still be attributed to this ongoing battle between the two. Similarly, a Congressional Research Service report detailing organized crime throughout Mexico notes that Guanajuato is also home to turf battles between the CJNG and its rivals Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

To learn more about organized crime and violence in Mexico, click here.

Sources:

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 30, 2019.

“Policías en la mira, los atacan cuatro veces en 10 días.” AM. July 12, 2019.

López, Karina. “Realizan homenaje a policía caído en ataque.” El Sol de Bajio. July 16, 2019.

Villafaña, Laura. “El martes llegan 250 elementos de la Guardia Nacional a Irapuato: alcalde.” Zona Franca. December 14, 2019.

“Mexico violence: 12 police killed in one week in Guanajuato.” BBC News. December 16, 2019.

“Civiles armados atacan a Guardia Nacional en Irapuato; hay 8 muertos.” El Universal. December 17, 2019.

“Emboscan y matan a jefe de la policía en Acámbaro, Guanajuato.” El Universal. December 19, 2019.

“En menos de un año dos jefes de Policía de Acámbaro fueron asesinados.” AM. December 19, 2019.

Espino, Manuel. “Rodríguez Bucio supervisa puestos de seguridad en Irapuato y Salamanca.” El Universal. December 19, 2019.

Villafaña, Laura. “Llegada de la Guardia Nacional a Irapuato.” Zona Franca. December 19, 2019.

Beittel, June S. “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.” Congressional Research Service. December 20, 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.

Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard

infographic, structure / outline of National Guard

Representative Mario Delgado posted this infographic about the National Guard following the sub-committee’s approval. Source: Mario Delgado, Twitter.

12/24/18 (written by kheinle) — The plan to create a National Guard (Guardia Nacional) in Mexico advanced through the first round of congressional approval. On December 20, 2018, the Chamber of Deputies’ (la Cámara de Diputados) Committee on Constitutional Affairs (la Comisión de Puntos Constitucionales) approved the bill 18 votes in favor to 6 against. If full Congress approves, the National Guard would be a 50,000-person armed force created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) proposed the force to address the seriously high levels of crime and violence in Mexico.

The bill would require amending 13 articles of the Mexican Constitution, some of which seek to mitigate concerns of human rights and civilian oversight. As Reuters reported, the constitutional changes “would mean that national guard members receive human rights training, are tried by civil courts and will not be able to move detainees to military institutions.” Initially, the National Guard was also going to be overseen by the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA). The bill approved in the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee, however, moved much of this control to the Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC). As the Latin America News Dispatch summarized, “While the unit would still be trained militarily, as was originally proposed, jurisdiction would pass to civilian authorities after five years, according to Representative Mario Delgado.” It continued, “The Senate will also be given the power to dissolve the new guard.”

Critics Speak Up

Despite these changes, critics have widely condemned the proposal. Causa en Común, a collective of more than 500 civil society organizations and businesses, among others, delivered a petition to Congress in November 2018 urging their elected officials to reject AMLO’s proposition. For her part, the director of the organization México Evalúa, Edna Jaime, criticized the National Guard in a November 2018 article titled, “No es más de lo mismo, es algo peor” (“It’s not more of the same; it’s worse”). Mexico’s crime and violence, she wrote, is associated with the dysfunctional State, the void of effective governing mechanisms, and a weak institution. The solution “is improving the capacity of the State” and focusing resources at the local levels, Jaime argued. “World peace is sustainable in local-level processes that operate with good mechanisms of global governance.”

DF Mayor speaking at event

Mexico City Mayor Sheinbaum turned down the idea of the National Guard in Mexico City. Source: Vanguardia.

Elected officials also voiced their concern. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum publicly announced that the National Guard would not be needed in the capital. The police are capable of delivering, she said, adding that the federal and local police forces would work closely together. Congresswoman Lucia Rojas also argued that the National Guard would only deepen the military-focused strategy already in Mexico. “And it’s become clear in the last 12 years,” she said, “that there’s absolutely no evidence that having the army on the streets helps to reduce the violence.” The military’s presence in Mexico’s domestic affairs has also led to an increase in the number of human rights violations perpetrated by members of the military against civilians, an issue that Justice in Mexico explored in a 2012 special report.

At the international level, organizations like the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern, too. Jan Jarab of the UN’s Office on Human Rights in Mexico sent a letter to Congress following the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee vote. Approval of the bill, he wrote, “would establish at the constitutional level this paradigm of military involvement in security issues, the same one that has contributed to the deterioration of human rights in Mexico.” Jarab continued, “[It] would threaten the possibility of having a capable civil body in the future that could exercise public security in strict accordance with international human rights standards.”

AMLO is not the first Mexican president to pursue the idea of a National Guard. His predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), initially called for a 40,000-person force that was eventually scaled down to 5,000. AMLO’s current bill will soon be presented to the full Chamber of Deputies for consideration.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

June S. Beittel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,” Congressional Research Service, July 3, 2018.

“Mexican president-elect’s party presents national guard plan.” Reuters. November 20, 2018.

Roldán, Maríhiz. “Más de 500 organizaciones manifestan su rechazo a la Guardia Nacional.” El Universal. November 20, 2018.

Angel, Arturo. “Los cambios clave en la propuesta de Guardia Nacional que fue aprobado en comisiones.” Animal Político. December 20, 2018.

Jiménez, Horacio and Alejandra Canchola. “Guardia Nacional arrancaría con mando militar y Senado la podría disolver: Delgado.” El Universal. December 20, 2018.

“Asylum seekers will be sent back to wait in Mexico.” Latin America News Dispatch. December 21, 2018.

“Diputados de México aprueban en comisiones la nueva Guardia Nacional.” RT. December 21, 2018.

Magallán, Antonio. “Sheimbaum se revela contra la Guardia Nacional de AMLO; asegura bastará con la Policía Federal y municipal.” Vanguardia. December 21, 2018.

Sánchez, Citlal Giles. “Preocupa a represenante de la ONU en México creación de la Guardia Nacional.” La Jornada Guerrero. December 22, 2018.