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
Prev Next

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.