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.

Homicide Rates on Pace for Record-Breaking Year

Map of homicides in 2018 by municipality

Homicides by municipality in 2018, according to data from SNSP. Source: Justice in Mexico.

08/18/19 (written by kheinle) — 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 (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP).

The agency reported 17,608 killings in the first six months of 2019, which is 894 more than the number recorded during the first half of 2018 or a 4% increase. If that number repeats in the second half of the year, Mexico could expect to see more than 35,200 homicides for all of 2019. That could be almost 1,900 more homicides than SNSP reported in 2018. For more information on 2018’s official numbers, check out Justice in Mexico’s “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Analysis Through 2018.”

Geographic Dispersion of Homicides

The majority of the homicides from January through June of 2019 were concentrated in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states and federal entities. Nuevo León had the highest increase (70%) in the number of homicides during that time period compared to that in 2018. Sonora saw a 65% increase, followed by Hidalgo (52%), Morelos (43%), Tabasco (42%), Jalisco (31%), Tlaxcala (30%), Coahuila (26%), and the State of México (21%). Another six states had increases at lower levels, falling between 10% and 20% compared to 2018. Guanajuato, which had the single largest increase in all of 2018 from the year before, fell into this category for 2019. Three other states – Puebla, Zacatecas, and Querétaro – had increases less than 10%.

The remaining 14 states all saw decreases in homicide levels, most notably that of Baja California Sur, which experienced a 66% decline in recorded killings in the first half of 2019. This continues the downward trajectory that Baja CA Sur had in 2018. During that year, the state registered the largest decrease in homicides nationwide with a 74% decline, dropping from 448 cases in 2017 to 162 in 2018. In the first six months of 2019, Nayarit followed Baja CA Sur with a 64% decrease, then Guerrero (30%), Tamaulipas (29%), Sinaloa (27%), and Durango (20%).

Government Strategy

solder in uniform on patrol

A member of Mexico’s military sports the National Guard insignia while on patrol in El Manguito, Mexico. Photo: Oliver de Ros, Associated Press.

The increase in homicide rates in 2019 continues a multi-year upward trend that began in 2015. Eyes are now on the López Obrador administration for its response since taking office in December 2018.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took a significant, yet controversial step to implementing his strategy to address crime and violence when he launched the National Guard in June. Created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police, the National Guard will serve as a means to combat the record-breaking levels of crime and violence. President López Obrador is also approaching crime and violence through economic policies. Writes Reuters, “[the President] has blamed the economic policies of previous administrations for exacerbating the violence.” He has taken a hard stance on cultivating fiscal austerity in the country, revamping previous policies while trying to decrease the deficit and increase incoming funds.

Time will tell if the López Obrador administration’s militarized and economic strategies affect Mexico’s staggering levels of crime and violence. As the administration nears the end of its first year in office, however, the upward trend on homicide rates continue.

Sources:

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

“President López Obrador continues to prioritize fiscal austerity.” Justice in Mexico. July 7, 2019.

“Murders in Mexico surge to record in first half of 2019.” Reuters. July 21, 2019. 

“Mexico sets 1st half murder record, up 5.3%.” Associated Press. 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.

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

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. July 24, 2019.

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

AMLO deploys National Guard amidst controversy

07/24/19 (written by kheinle) — The first contingent of Mexico’s National Guard (Guardia Nacional) was officially deployed to the streets in late June. Created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police, the National Guard will serve as a means to combat the country’s ongoing challenges with organized crime and violence. The deployment came seven months after President Andrés López Manuel Obrador took office in December 2018 and three months after Mexico’s Congress approved the force in March 2019. The National Guard is projected to grow to be 140,000 members.

Deployment of the National Guard

AMLO rides in ceremony for National Guard inauguration

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the inauguration of the National Guard. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Six thousand National Guard agents were initially sent to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. They are there to assist with the increasing flow of migrants crossing into Mexico from Central America. As The Associated Press noted, the deployment came “as Mexico [put] into effect a deal on irregular immigration reached with Washington to head off stiff tariffs that President Donald Trump threatened to slap on all imports from Mexico.”

President López Obrador’s decision to strengthen the country’s southern border in response to the escalating tension with the United States led to a drop in his approval rating. In May, President López Obrador had a 66.0% approval rating, which fell to 60.8% after his agreement made with President Trump on June 7, according to polling firm Mitkofsky. Overall, President López Obrador has fared poorly with approval ratings specific to public security. In a recent survey, only 26% of respondents approved of the government’s handling of public security, while 55% viewed it poorly. Even the president commented that he “had so far failed to improve security,” writes Reuters. Still, President López Obrador has received above average approval ratings during his time in office.

The heated rhetoric between the United States and Mexico regarding tariffs and immigration has since quieted for the time being. Yet the debate over Mexico’s National Guard has not. Critics continue to express concern over the agency’s formation, its effect on the Police, and its respect of human rights.

Criticism of the National Guard

National Guard on patrol

Members of the military display National Guard insignia during patrol in El Manguito, Mexico. Photo: Oliver de Ros, Associated Press.

As Justice in Mexico wrote in December 2018, criticism of the force emanates at the local, national, and international levels. Congresswoman Lucia Rojas, for example, argued that the National Guard would only deepen the military-focused strategy already in Mexico. “…[I]t’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.”

Similarly, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore acknowledged that, at least pertaining to the flow of migrants to Mexico’s southern border, the National Guard is not the cure. “Unless the root causes of these migration flows are addressed, the situation is unlikely to change,” said Fore. That parallels ongoing criticism of the government’s willingness to involve the military in domestic affairs, a practice that is regularly discouraged. The blurring of the line between roles and responsibilities among the military, police, and now the National Guard will be worth monitoring.

Police Protests

Mexico’s Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) has been in the center of the debate over the National Guard, as the former will be fully integrated into the latter over the next 18 months. The Police have been very critical of the National Guard’s formation and the effect it will have on the police agents themselves. Their concerns include officers’ pay and benefits if they transfer, job stability and security, and the effect of deployment on their families back home, reports The New York Times. One Federal Police officer, Engelbert Ruiz, commented that “What is really happening is that they are simply changing our uniforms [with] no explanations, clarity, no rights or guarantees.”

Federal Police gather in protest

Members of Mexico’s Federal Police (Policia Federal, PF). Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Tensions erupted in early July when Federal Police in Mexico City took to the streets. Protests included press conferences, blockades on one of the main highways in Mexico City, and several hundred officers barricading themselves in the police command center. They also signed a petition “in favor of legality and justice” that laid out the Federal Police’s demands for just pay and treatment as they integrate into the National Guard. In addition, more than 4,000 agents signed on to an amparo, or court injunction, demanding the protections of their rights throughout this process.

President López Obrador has been critical of the police force’s discipline and entanglement with corruption. He pointed to the protests as a sign that they lack discipline. “We have always said that this police force has been going bad, and what happened yesterday,” he said, referencing the protests, “is evidence of that.” Still, the López Obrador administration, including Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo Montaño, continue to stress that police officers “joining the National Guard will be able to retain their rank, bonuses and benefits.” Durazo has been working with the police to address and satisfy their demands, on which he reported progress and agreements as of July 9, according to El Economista.

Human Rights Violations

Military involvement in domestic affairs raises concern, particularly with regards to the potential increase in human rights violations perpetrated by members of the military against civilians. As it was, just days after the National Guard took to the streets in Mexico, three agents were arrested for allegedly kidnapping a 14-year-old in the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex). They are thought to be a part of a larger kidnapping gang that authorities in Edomex and Guerrero were tracking.

The likelihood of such incidences occurring pushed Congress to establish human rights protocols and protections as they debated the force’s approval earlier this year. This included constitutional changes that “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,” writes Reuters. If agents want to join the National Guard, they must now participate in a seven week training. This is a step in the right direction to curtail human rights violations. However, the Mexican Government ought to continue prioritizing human rights protections amidst the National Guard’s rollout.

Sources:

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

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

“Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard.” Justice in Mexico. December 24, 2018.

Verza, María. “Mexico says National Guard deployment is complete.” The Associated Press. June 21, 2019.

García, Jacobo. “López Obrador pone en marcha la polémica Guardia Nacional para frenar la violencia del crimen organizado.” El País. July 1, 2019.

“One year from election, Mexicans give government poor marks on key issues: poll.” Reuters. July 1, 2019.

“Mexican police protest against joining new national guard.” Reuters. July 3, 2019.

Villegas, Paulina and Elisabeth Malkin. “Mexico’s Federal Police Rebel Against New Security Plan.” The New York Times. July 4, 2019.

“Cae banda de secuestradores que pertenecían a la Guardia Nacional.” Forbes. July 16, 2019.

Badillo, Diego. “Guardia Nacional desata conflicto dentro de la Policía Federal.” El Economista. July 20, 2019.

President López Obrador continues to prioritize fiscal austerity

President Lopez Obrador

President Ándres Manuel López Obrador. Photo: Marco Ugarte, Associated Press.

07/07/19 (written by kheinle) — Fiscal austerity continues to be a major priority for the López Obrador administration as it moves into its second half of its first year in office. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s campaign promise was to decrease governmental expenses and run a more financially sound office. Recouped funds from such efforts are now being reinvested into low income areas through social programs, crime and violence prevention, infrastructure, pensions for senior citizens, and scholarships for students, writes Reuters.

President López Obrador’s approach to cut government spending has been multi-pronged, as described below.

Government Salaries

One of President López Obrador’s first steps in office was to limit the salary of the president. He immediately cut his income to 40% of that of his predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). President López Obrador now takes home $108,000 pesos per month ($60,000 USD annually).

The president also praised a ruling from the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN) in January 2019 that limited what members of the public sector and judiciary can earn. The law (Ley de Remuneraciones de los Servidores Públicos) reduces Supreme Court justices’ salaries by 25%. This is in line with President López Obrador’s campaign commitment that no public sector worker shall earn more than the president unless in special circumstances. For its part, the Supreme Court noted that its decision was “part of a new policy of austerity” that emanated from its then-recently elected Chief Justice who began his term in early January 2019.

Presidential Residence

Former and current Mexican presidents at the National Palace

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (left) and former President Enrique Peña Nieto walk through the National Palace. Photo: Associated Press.

President López Obrador is also cutting government expenses by downsizing his place of residence. Over the summer of 2019, the president plans to relocate for a second time since taking office in December 2018. At that time, he moved from the former presidential residence into his family’s town house on the south-side of Mexico City. The old presidential residence has since been converted into a center for the arts.

Now the president will live in an unused office apartment in the historic National Palace in downtown Mexico City. The move will not only save funds by consolidating efforts, but will also help him avoid the challenging daily commuter traffic in and out of Mexico City. “The president, who holds a 7:00 am news conference every weekday morning [in the National Palace], already sleeps over at the office sometimes,” writes The Associated Press.

President López Obrador has committed to keeping the National Palace open to tourists and to preserving the historic Diego Rivera murals onsite. 

Auctioned Items

In addition to cutting salaries and downsizing residencies, President López Obrador is also working to bring in more government funds. One of the ways in which he is doing so is by auctioning off high-end government items and resources. In June, the president outlined his plan, for example, to sell the presidential airplane, the value of which is estimated at $150 million (USD). Proceeds from the sale will be used to offset the rising costs required to implement Mexico’s plan to curb immigration, which has been a hot topic of late between Mexico and the United States. More than 50 other governmental helicopters and planes are also being sold, according to Animal Político.

Photos of properties for auction

Properties listed for auction by the López Obrador Administration. Photo: El Servicio de Administración y Enajenación de Bienes (SAE).

The López Obrador administration also began auctioning off properties and luxury items seized from drug trafficking organizations, cartel leaders, and even politicians. A live auction held in June saw 27 properties up for bid, including “houses with swimming pools and escape tunnels, a ranch surrounded by hectares of land and a luxury apartment with a grisly history,” writes Reuters. Almost $3 million (USD) was raised off of the nine properties that actually sold. An auction held the month before that featured a Lamborghini and similar assets netted the government $1.5 million (USD).

Funds raised are being committed to supporting marginalized and low-income communities, such as those in the State of Guerrero that benefitted from June’s auction. “[Buyers] will know that in addition to acquiring a good, they will also be doing good, that is, they will be helping those who need support because of the situation of poverty and marginalization they suffer,” the president said.

President López Obrador’s focus on fiscal austerity continues to play out in his first year in office. By decreasing government expenses and increasing revenue directed towards supporting social good and the common people, he is working to fulfill his populist campaign promise.

Sources:

Associated Press. “Mexico’s president-elect Amlo to take 60% pay cut in austerity push.” The Guardian. July 16, 2018.

“Mexico president-elect hails passage of public sector pay cuts.” Reuters. September 14, 2018.

“Mexico’s Supreme Court agrees to lower salaries after spat.” The Associated Press. January 8, 2019.

“AMLO pleased with Supreme Court’s decision to cut salaries.” Justice in Mexico. January 14, 2019.

“Presupuesto para plan migratorio saldría de la venta del avión presidencial: López Obrador.” El Financiero. June 12, 2019.

Ávila, Yuriria. “El Sabueso: Los datos engañosos de AMLO sobre la venta del avión presidencial.” Animal Político. June 18, 2019.

“Gobierno recauda menos de lo esperado en subasta de mansions de narcos.” Forbes. June 23, 2019.

Oré, Diego. “Narco safe houses, ranches and luxury apartments auctioned in Mexico.” Reuters. June 23, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. June 24, 2019.

“Mexican president to move from home to office apartment.” The Associated Press. June 27, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. June 28, 2019.