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

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions of ...

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

 Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

Well-armed vigilantes in Mexico's Michoacan state have helped authorities dismantle a powerful criminal organization, but now the government may have a more difficult task: keeping Michoacan safe from the vigilantes and rival criminal groups.

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

After the lower house passed the controversial marijuana bill July 31, Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug, and provide a model for countries looking for alternatives to the world’s dominant drug policy paradigm. ...

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

Whether it is sustainable or not, the truce -- which the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 put into place March 2012 -- has changed the conventional thinking about who the gangs are and what is the best way to handle the most difficult law and order ...

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the country's police has become a key player in the underworld. This series of five articles explore the dark ties between criminal organizations and the government's foremost crime fighting institution.

Juarez after the War

Juarez after the War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality. InSight Crime looks at the role politicians, police, and for-hire street gangs played in the fighting -- asking who ...