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How Bush, Obama, and Holder helped break Mexican justice

Tina Trent author image /

This is Mexico today, the New York Times reports:

Mexico is reaching its deadliest point in decades. Even with more than 100,000 deaths, 30,000 people missing and billions of dollars tossed into the furnace of Mexico’s decade-long fight against organized crime, the flames have not died down. By some measures, they are only getting worse.

Who could possibly look at Mexico bleeding under the thumb of gang murders and say: “what they really need down there is some good defense attorneys”? Well, somebody did. This Times article is from 2012:

Four years ago, Mexico’s Congress adopted a legal overhaul that will enable prosecutors and defense lawyers to present evidence and question witnesses in open court, a practice that already exists in a few states but whose rollout is scheduled to be completed nationwide by 2016.

More open trials, the theory goes, will increase due process and accountability in a country where the much-publicized arrests of cartel bosses are common, but the actual convictions of criminals are not. …

Though the United States has focused much of its anti-crime aid toward Mexico on helicopters and other equipment under the $1.6 billion Merida Initiative, the program is now shifting toward the shoring up of institutions, a step that analysts call overdue. …

Here in Mexico City, under a $5 million program initially developed by the United States Justice Department and the Mexican attorney general’s office in 2011, 7,700 federal prosecutors, investigators and forensics specialists have been trained in the open, accusatory-style trial system.

So the rollout of the new justice system was slated to be finished in 2016, and now homicide rates are skyrocketing:

The last couple of months have set particularly ominous records: More homicide scenes have emerged across Mexico than at any point since the nation began keeping track 20 years ago. …

Begun in 2008 and completed last year with the help of more than $300 million in American aid, the new legal system is widely considered the most important change to Mexican jurisprudence in a century. Intended to fix the nation’s broken rule of law, it essentially adopted the model used in the United States, where innocence is presumed before guilt, evidence is presented in open court and corruption is harder to hide.

But the new legal system inhibits arbitrary detentions. Suspects held without evidence have been released, leading a growing chorus of officials to argue that the new system is responsible for the very surge in crime and impunity it was supposed to prevent.

Bush started the Merida Initiative, but it took Obama to shift resources in it almost entirely to making Mexican courtrooms look more like American ones:

In 2011, Obama Administration and Calderón government officials revised the strategy behind the Mérida Initiative. After months of consultations, the governments agreed to broaden the scope of bilateral efforts to focus on institution building over technology transfers, economic development and community-based social programs, and states and municipalities (especially on the U.S.-Mexican border). Since FY2011, funding for pillar two—building the rule of law while protecting human rights—has exceeded assistance for all other pillars.

Mexican courtrooms start looking more like American ones, and American crime statistics start looking more like Mexican ones. Was there anything the Obama administration couldn’t do?

The city of Chicago recorded 762 homicides in 2016 — an average of two murders per day, the most killings in the city for two decades and more than New York and Los Angeles combined.

The nation’s third largest city also saw 1,100 more shooting incidents than it did in 2015, according to statistics released by the Chicago Police Department that underlined a story of bloodshed that has put Chicago at the center of a national dialogue about gun violence.

The numbers released Sunday are staggering, even for those following the steady news accounts of weekends ending with dozens of shootings and monthly death tolls that hadn’t been seen in years. The increase in 2016 homicides compared to 2015, when 485 were reported, is the largest spike in 60 years.

In response to the violence in Chicago in 2016, Obama advisor Rev. Michael Pfleger held several marches during which he taught children how to turn the American flag upside down, poured fake blood on the street to spell out the word S.O.S., and demanded more money. Maybe we could send Pfleger to Mexico to calm the crime problem down there:

While Pfleger regularly holds peaceful marches, Wednesday’s was especially dramatic. Dozens of people lay in the street, blocking traffic with their bodies. Pfleger held up a gallon of a deep red liquid he called “blood” and then poured it into the intersection, spelling out the letters “SOS.”

About 20 minutes later, he took down the American flag that hung from a staff outside his church, flipped the flag upside down and then raised it back up. An upside down flag, he told the crowd, is a signal of distress.

Of course, members of the former Obama administration have found a way to blame Trump for the violence in Mexico. It was a bit of a walk, but they got there:

The United States has been notably quiet about [legislation to roll back the legal reforms], given how much it has invested to overhaul Mexico’s legal system. The Americans have equipped courtrooms across the country and trained judges, prosecutors, police officers and law professors.

To some critics, the United States’ silence is a reflection of the new relationship between the two countries, with American influence waning amid the hostilities between Mr. Trump and Mexico. …

“We have lost our ability to have a dialogue with them now,” said Mark Feierstein, the former director of Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. “With the Trump administration’s attitude toward our press and judicial system, and the coarse language he uses, we have lost our standing globally.”

So, Trump tweets in Washington, and 109,000 people die in Mexico – because of a program founded by George W. Bush and implemented by Obama and Holder.

Quite a trick.

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The Author

Tina Trent

Tina Trent writes about crime and policing, political radicals, social service programs, and academia. She has published several reports for America’s Survival and helped the late Larry Grathwohl release a…

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