Retired Mexican army general Tomas Angeles

Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo has dropped corruption charges against Tomas Angeles, a retired army general and deputy defense minister, just the latest of the premier anti-corruption prosecutions pushed by former President Felipe Calderon to collapse, illustrating the continued fragility of the judicial system.

Mexico City's El Universal newspaper reported that federal prosecutors were likely to drop the charges against Angeles in the wake of a court ruling earlier this week throwing out the charges against a former chief of the attorney general's anti-organized crime unit, Noe Ramirez Mandujano. Murillo made it official April 17. A judge later released the former general. 

A federal judge ruled that evidence of connivance with the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) against Ramirez presented by a protected witness, code-named "Jennifer," was fabricated. Ramirez had been arrested in 2008, along with two dozen other officials from the anti-crime unit, in a much ballyhooed operation dubbed "Operation Cleanup."

Testimony from "Jennifer," actually a male protected witness, also was key in the case against Angeles, two other generals and several lower ranking officers arrested in May 2012 on charges of aiding the BLO.

Some observers at the time suggested Angeles' arrest was a consequence of infighting within the army high command surrounding the naming of a new defense secretary that would follow last year's presidential elections.

President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday signaled his government's willingness to not pursue the corruption cases, saying the unraveled case against Ramirez reflected deep deficiencies in the country's justice apparatus.

"I believe all these cases give a very clear lesson," Peña said at a Tuesday forum on anti-crime efforts. "What we have to do is train, prepare the prosecutors offices, the prosecutors, the police investigators in gathering evidence and in scientific investigation that gives the proper and sufficient support to back up any accusation."

InSight Crime Analysis

The dropping of the corruption cases marks an embarrassing rebuke of the six-year Washington-backed efforts by Calderon's administration to reform the justice system, clean up corruption and fight organized crime. Indeed, the training of federal police and prosecutors was a key target of the $1.6 billion in US aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative.

The cases against Noe Ramirez and a series of military officials appeared to underscore some advances. And, in many ways, the destruction of the BLO was a hallmark of the Calderon government. The BLO fragmented after the December 2009 killing of kingpin Arturo Beltran by US backed Mexican marines and appeared to be reeling. But the group has since rebounded, with the help from some formidable allies, the Zetas. Arturo's brother, Hector, now controls the remnants of the gang, which still has a strong presence along the Pacific Coast and the outskirts of Mexico City.

While no one doubts that the gangsters' connections with officials have nurtured their survival, the cases also underscored just how brittle Mexico's justice system actually is. Calderon learned that lesson when he decided to take on the gangs: civilian security forces proved woefully unprepared, soldiers poor policemen, prosecutors and judges inadequate guardians of justice. Six years on, and that goal of professionalizing police and prosecutors remains a goal rather than a reality.

Peña has expressed support for continued cooperation with Washington under the auspices of Merida. But changes in the programs focus are likely and indeed were called for this week by Mexican foreign minister Jose Antonio Meade.

However, Peña's larger anti-crime strategy remains undefined. He has said it would be unfair to judge its effectiveness before the year is out. But the tattered cases against Ramirez and the generals -- regardless of whether they had any merit or not -- hint at just how steep a hill Peña, his security team, and US planners will be treading.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...