López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption

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

Ex-Governor Duarte

Former Governor César Duarte. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

Former Head of PEMEX

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

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

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

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

Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corruption in Mexico Persists Despite Campaign Promises

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

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

Corruption at the National and Regional Levels

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

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

AMLO’s Campaign to Combat Corruption

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

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

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

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

Public Perception and High-Profile Cases

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMLO’s Decree Further Militarizes the Public Security Strategy

AMLO rides in ceremony for National Guard inauguration
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the inauguration of the National Guard in 2019. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

06/12/2020 (written by kheinle) – President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took steps to further institutionalize the military in addressing public safety. On May 11, the president signed an executive decree that expands the armed forces’ involvement in internal affairs nationwide until March 2024 or until the National Guard can assume the responsibilities.

The decree is officially published as, “AGREEMENT that makes the Armed Forces permanently available to fulfill public security duties in an extraordinary, regulated, fiscally managed, subordinate, and complementary manner.” Additional responsibilities include supporting investigations, “detaining suspects, securing crime scenes, and carrying out arrest warrants,” writes the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Despite assuming more domestic duties, however, the decree does not expand oversight on the military. Soldiers will continue to be held to their own internal controls instead of being accountable to civilian institutions.

Why the Increase in Military Presence?

The military is being called into action to curb the continuing rise in crime and violence, which is currently at an all-time high. Mexico’s most violent year on record was 2019 with 35,588 homicides, according to the National System of Public Security (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP). This year is on track to be even higher. There were also more homicides in March 2020 than any other month under the López Obrador Administration (2,616 cases of intentional homicide and 3,000 victims), prompting the president to act.

President López Obrador assigned the National Guard to temper migration flows at the country’s northern and southern borders. Photo: Notimex.

The military’s presence will complement the work of the National Guard, which has arguably not evolved into the force that the president had hoped since it launched in July 2019. President López Obrador created the unit, which now has more than 100,000 troops enlisted, to combat the country’s ongoing challenges with organized crime and violence. Yet the Guard’s responsibilities in public security have adapted considerably since the outset. During their first year on the ground, National Guard troops were largely charged with aiding Mexico’s response to migration influxes at the country’s northern and southern borders and more recently with supporting efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, commented, “The fact is the National Guard is simply an insufficient response to the violence in Mexico. This was always going to be the case,” he continued, “but with all of the extra responsibilities the Guard took on related to forced migration, there are extreme shortages in the workforce.

The president’s newly signed decree hopes to address the rise in violence by bringing in the military to alleviate some of the responsibility of the National Guard until that force is fully capable of handling the task.   

Human Rights Concerns

The military’s presence in domestic affairs continues to raise red flags given the institution’s record with violating human rights. Said Santiago Aguirre, the director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center in Mexico City, “In effect, the army and navy are going to be handling police duties until 2024. [Both] have a long history of not being accountable, especially in cases of serious human rights violations.”

Photo: Guardia Nacional.

Concern over the National Guard’s responsibility in violating human rights also persists. The Guard was created as an institution with more accountability to civilian authority. When Congress approved the force in 2019, it instituted constitutional changes that established human rights protocols and protections overseeing the unit. Nevertheless, the National Guard is arguably a militarized force, much to the concern of human rights organizations.  

Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America highlights several ways in which this is so. First, over 75% of the National Guard is composed of soldiers, according to a Mexican government report. This is likely impacted by the fact that National Guard recruitment centers are all located on military bases. Second, the leader of the National Guard has roots in the military as a former member of the armed forces and as a retired general. Finally, the National Guard’s funding and equipment comes from the military.

In her article, Meyer recognizes that the National Guard does indeed have fewer cases of human rights violations documented against it as compared to the military, but it still has some. “Between July and November 2019, the CNDH [National Human Rights Commission, Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos] reported receiving 32 complaints of human rights violations committed by members of the National Guard, including accusations of migrant abuse, torture, and arbitrary detention,” she wrote. Such complaints have continued into the new year.

With a more militarized National Guard and the president’s decree to put the military back on the streets, it will be important to monitor potential rises in human rights violations.

Sources:

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

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

Gobierno de México. “Informe de seguridad, Guardia Nacional y combate a la delincuencia organizada.” YouTube. April 24, 2020.

Agren, David. “López Obrador accused of militarizing Mexico with new security decree.” The Guardian. May 11, 2020.

Diario Oficial de la Federación. “ACUERDO por el que se dispone de la Fuerza Armada permanente para llevar a cabo tareas de seguridad pública de manera extraordinaria, regulada, fiscalizada, subordinada y complementaria.” Secretaría de Gobernación. May 11, 2020.

Rivers, Matt and Jackie Castillo. “Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordena que los militares vuelvan a las calles para combatir la creciente violencia.” CNN Español. May 12, 2020.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Incidencia delictiva.” Goberino de México. May 20, 2020.

“Versión estenográfica de la conferencia de prensa matutina del presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador.” Sitio Oficial de Andrés Manuel López Obrador. May 20, 2020.

Meyer, Maureen. “One Year After National Guard’s Creation, Mexico is Far from Demilitarizing Public Security.” Washington Office on Latin America. May 26, 2020.

Centro Nacional de Información. “Incidencia Delictiva del Fuero Común 2020.” Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana, Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. May 2020.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Víctimas y unidades robabas, nueva metodología.” Gobierno de México. Last accessed June 12, 2020.

Women Voice Ire, Fear as Femicides Continue to Rise in Mexico

Over 80,000 people particpated in Sunday’s International Women’s Day March in Mexico City. Photo: El Universal.

03/10/20 (written by kheinle) — Mexico just recorded its most dangerous year on record for women, according to the Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). Targeted violence against women, also known as “femicides,” has long been an issue with which Mexico has grappled. With the numbers on the rise, critics are turning their ire towards the López Obrador administration to seek answers, action, and accountability.

What the Data Shows

According to the SESNSP, more women were victims of homicide in 2019 than ever before. The number of women who were victims of illicit crimes was also 2.5% higher than in 2018. This included physical injury or assault, extortion, intentional homicide, corruption of minors, femicide, kidnapping, human trafficking, and trafficking of minors. The number of female victims of such crimes reported each year rose from 62,567 in 2015 to 72,747 in 2018, only to be surpassed in 2019 with 74,632 victims. This represents a 137% increase over the past five years in such crimes against women. Women are also murdered at an astounding rate in Mexico, with ten women killed each day, writes The Associated Press. In 2019, more than 1,000 of Mexico’s 35,588 homicides were categorized as femicides. The country’s notorious levels of impunity compound the issue.

The data release comes amidst backlash in Mexico from citizens and human rights advocates demanding the government step up its efforts to protect women. Three specific cases of gender-based violence have thus far caught the country’s attention in 2020, prompting significant protests, a march, and a nationwide strike.

High Profile Cases

The first case surrounds the murder of 26-year-old Isabel Cabanillas, a young artist and feminist who was shot dead in Ciudad Juárez while riding her bicycle on January 18, 2020. Protestors took to the streets of Juárez a week later demanding the government protect women and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.

A woman mourns at the tribute set up for Ingrid Escamilla who was brutally murdered in Mexico City. Photo: Imelda Media, Reuters.

Then, on February 9, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla’s body was found in Mexico City, stabbed to death and partially skinned by her partner. Photographs of Escamilla’s body were later leaked by the media, prompting even more protests and demonstrations. Activists demanded that the media stop “re-victimizing” the victim and making a public display of the violence. Instead, activists buried the images by flooding the internet with non-violent pictures of nature and artwork linked with Escamilla’s name.

Less than a week later, Mexican authorities discovered the mutilated, naked body of 7-year-old Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón in a plastic bag four days after she went missing. Fátima disappeared on February 11 after videos showed her being picked up from school in Mexico City by a stranger. The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, spoke out, calling the child’s murder an “outrageous, aberrant, painful” crime that would “not go unpunished.” Sheinbaum is the first elected female mayor of Mexico City, who campaigned on eliminating violence against women. In July 2019, she vowed “to avoid and eliminate violence against women… It’s not fighting it,” she said. “The objective is ultimately to eradicate violence. That should be the goal.”

Protests Erupt

The string of femicides culminating in Fátima’s murder launched a wave of protests throughout Mexico. Activists are demanding an end to gender-based violence and brutality against women, calling for the government to act.

President Andrés López Obrador has specifically come under fire for what protestors say has been his insufficient response to the crisis. The president pushed back, “saying that the issue of femicides have been ‘manipulated’ by those critical of his administration,” writes BBC News. A few of the protests have turned violent with activists throwing “flaming projectiles” at a statue of Christopher Columbus, defacing other statues, smashing cars and setting fires, and spray painting “Femicide state” on the exterior of the National Palace, among other acts.

Some protests, like this one in Mexico City, turned violent with demonstrators defacing public and private property. Photo: The Associated Press.

President López Obrador’s calls for protestors to pacify the demonstrations only further angered participants, writes The Washington Post. Critics argue the president has been dismissive of both the femicides and protests that have ensued; the president counters that demonstrations are just serving as a distraction. Still, the president eventually conceded that “the feminist movement was fighting for a ‘legitimate’ cause,” though he held on to the argument that his political rivals “who want to see his government fail” were instigating the demonstrations.

International Women’s Day March

The protests culminated on International Women’s Day, March 8, when more than 80,000 people marched through Mexico City. It lasted nearly six hours, stretching from the iconic Monumento a la Revolución to the Zócalo city center. At least 38 people in attendance – including several police officers – suffered injuries and needed medical attention. Protestors also hung banners with statements like, “We apologize for the inconveniences, but they are murdering us!” and “I’m marching today so that I don’t die tomorrow.”

The march also featured Vivir Quintana, a 36-year-old musician from Coahuila who sang “Song Without Fear” alongside 40 other women at the Zócalo. Quintana wrote the anthem with the intention to inspire justice and serve as a rallying platform for the women not just in Mexico, but generally throughout Latin America. “At every minute of every week, they steal friends from us, they kill sisters,” sings Quintana. “They destroy their bodies, they disappear them. Don’t forget their names, please, Mister President.”  

‘A Day Without Us’

President López Obrador speaks to a room full of male journalists at his daily morning press conference on March 9, the day women went on strike nationwide. Photo: Milenio.

The day after, tens of thousands of women throughout Mexico participated in a strike against gender violence. From classrooms to offices, private to public sector, journalists to street vendors, and beyond, women stayed home during what was dubbed ‘A Day Without Us.’ The strike was meant to show what life would be like without women as more and more become victims of femicide. For the most part, the strike was well supported by places of employment. Mexico City’s Mayor Sheinbum, for example, announced that none of the City government’s 150,000 female employees would be penalized if they did not show up for work on March 9th. According to Mexican business group Concanaco Servytur, had all women participated in the strike the economic impact could have reached $1.37 billion.

As The New York Times summarized, “The unprecedented outpouring of women on Sunday [March 8] and their strike on Monday [March 9] tested the leadership of Mexico’s president.” The events also picked up significant international and social media attention under the hashtags #UnDíaSinNosotras and #ADayWithoutUs. It also paralleled protests and marches throughout Latin America – like the one million-person march in Chile on Sunday – in honor of International Women’s Day.

Read more about cases of femicide in Mexico, violence against women, and underreporting on the crime in these 2019 Justice in Mexico posts here and here.

Sources:

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

“Allegations of Police Involvement in Rape, Corruption.” Justice in Mexico. August 20, 2019.

Ortiz Uribe, Monica. “Feminist Is Murdered in Mexico, And Protestors Demand Answers.” NPR. January 26, 2020.

Ortiz, Alexis. “2019, el año con más mujeres víctimas en México.” El Universal. February 3, 2020.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. February 14, 2020.

“Marcha de mujeres exige justicia por feminicidio de Ingrid Escamilla.” Excélsior. February 14, 2020.

Orsi, Peter. “Murdered Mexico City girl buried amid grief, outrage.” The Associated Press. February 18, 2020.

Sieff, Kevin. “The death of a 7-year-old girl in Mexico provokes new outrage.” The Washington Post. February 18, 2020.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. February 20, 2020.

Solomon, Daina Beth. “Don’t forget their names’: Women in Mexico sing anthem protesting femicides.” Reuters. March 7, 2020.

Guthrie, Amy and Alicia Hernandez. “Mexican women Paint, march to protest gender violence.” The Associated Press. March 8, 2019.

“Minuto a Minuto. Marcha por el Día Internacional de la Mujer.” El Universal. March 8, 2020.

Stettin, Cinthya et al. “March 8 de marzo en CdMx: minuto a minuto.” Milenio. March 8, 2020.

“Un día sin mujeres: así luce México sin ellas el 9 de marzo.” Milenio. March 9, 2020.

Villegas, Paulina. “In Mexico, Women Go on Strike Nationwide to Protest Violence.” The New York Times. March 9, 2020.

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.