Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scathing Review, and More Evidence of the Need of Institutional Improvement

El Universal was rather negative in its assessment of things at the PGR in the wake of the removal of Chávez Chávez:

Criminal justice in this country needs to be revamped. The removal of the head of the PGR is just a step in that direction, because the issue is not a problem of people alone, but rather of institutions and, many of us fear, of culture as well.

For decades, the inefficiency of the federal Ministerio Público has allowed impunity to reign and for a great number of crimes to go unpunished, which encourages delinquents, who perceive that the chance of being arrested in minimal.

Or if they are apprehended, there is a great probability that their file will be --voluntarily or involuntarily-- poorly handled, which will lead to their eventual exit, once more on the street.


We should recognize that the inefficiency and the complicity in this area didn't arrive with Chávez, they predate him; but it's also fair to point out that he didn't advance much in their combat and he passes them on, worsened. He is reproached for a mediocre administration, which left behind unfinished business, in the moment when the country least can handle a deficient conduct of its criminal justice apparatus.

If there had been advances in the past 18 months, today the Chamber of Commerce wouldn't be reporting a drop in border tourism, nor would their be judicial missteps like the so-called "michoacanazo", where despite the official insistence charges against officials accused of collusion with drug traffickers could not be proven.


The challenge for whoever heads the PGR is significant. It goes from attacking a deeply rooted culture of inefficiency and corruption, which necessarily will affect power economic and criminal interests, but there's no turning the page, no possibility of starting with a clean slate. Without changing this, there will be no way that soldiers, marines, intelligence agents or police will have success in their work in the field. If the the fight is sabotaged from the PGR, everything else is doomed to failure.
That seems dead on, and it is made even more challenging by the lack of competency and honesty by the other criminal justice institutions, especially the various police forces. What goes without saying is that if the PGR is so screwed that it can undermine everything every other branch in Mexico is trying to do, then there isn't much US officials can do either, without a concomitant change in the heart of the institutions within Mexico. Sorry if I've been harping on this a bit lately, but I've been quite struck about how this basic and enormous piece of the puzzle is so often ignored by American analysts. What does it matter what approach the American government takes, what kind of aid packages are dreamed up, if the foremost criminal justice institutions are inspiring editorials like the one above?

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