A men's prison in Mexico City

Only 30 percent of those detained on drug trafficking charges in Mexico are actually convicted, raising questions about the ability of Mexico's justice system to effectively take on organized crime.

According to a report released by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and cited by the Associated Press, just 31 percent (1,072 of 3,439) of those arrested on drug charges between 2006 and 2011 were actually convicted. The report found that the largest number of drug trafficking arrests that resulted in jail time occurred in 2009, when 802 of 866 spent time in jail (likely as a result of pretrial detention), but only 122 were formally convicted. The following year only 82 were convicted, out of 680 total detentions. 

Authorities in the PGR claim that 23 money laundering networks were dismantled during this time period, resulting in a total of 639 arrests. As happened with drug trafficking suspects however, most of these were released. According to the PGR figures, less than 13 percent -- 82 in total -- were convicted. 

InSight Crime Analysis

While a 31 percent conviction rate for drug trafficking is low by standards of law enforcement in the United States, where the figure is greater than 90 percent, it may be a positive sign for Mexico. Previous reports of impunity for drug traffickers had estimated the conviction rate to be half that number, at 15 percent.

The figure is even more impressive when looking at the shoddy state of the country’s judicial system as a whole. A 2011 study by Mexico’s National Autonomous University found that police only investigate 4.5 percent of reported crimes every year in Mexico, and that just one percent make it to trial. It is also higher than the conviction rate for murders (20 percent), which is interesting considering that many drug traffickers have more money and influence over local judges than most murder suspects.

Of course, this does not mean that the Mexican justice system is immune from criminal influence. Trying and convicting powerful players in the drug trade like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman would still be a difficult task, which is one of the reasons why the number of extraditions to the US has increased since 2006. Additionally, even when drug traffickers are convicted and sent to prison, the poor state of security in Mexican jails ensure that many continue to run their organizations from inside. 

Investigations

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

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...

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.

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.

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

El Salvador's Cojutepeque jail is a perfect illustration of how prisons in this country have become the main breeding and training grounds for street gangs.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with the seemingly intractable issue of street gangs. But it also creates new dangers.

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...

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...

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...