Less than 1% of crimes are punished in Mexico

Less than one percent of crimes are punished in Mexico, according to a new study that highlights the grave structural and institutional weaknesses that have allowed organized crime to flourish in the country.

According to the new Mexico Global Impunity Index (pdf) published by the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies (CESIJ) at Universidad de Las Américas, only 4.46 percent of crimes recorded in Mexico result in convictions.

However, the report adds, only around seven percent of crimes are actually reported, which when taken into account means that over 99 percent of crimes committed in Mexico go unpunished. The study found the most common reasons for not reporting crimes were the amount of time it takes and a lack of faith in the authorities.

The report also ranked other countries around the globe by assigning impunity scores based on various factors, from crime reporting rates to the capacities of security and justice institutions. Among the countries included in the report, Mexico ranked as the second worst for impunity after the Philippines and the worst in the Americas, with only Colombia coming close to Mexico's score.

The CESIJ blamed a combination of political failures and meddling, weak, underfunded and corrupt institutions as well as the presence of organized crime for Mexico's impunity woes.

InSight Crime Analysis

The CESIJ report highlights perhaps the biggest obstacle to improving security in Mexico -- shocking levels of impunity. The reasons for this are varied and deep rooted, but can be traced back to state institutions that are overwhelmed and underfunded and often swing between corruption and incompetence.

Such weaknesses in security institutions mean many people consider reporting crimes to be a waste of time or even risky due to the possibility of reprisals. However, this is just the beginning of Mexico's impunity problems, which continue with a justice system that also lacks the capacity to properly investigate and prosecute crimes, meaning even those that are arrested will often not be convicted.

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When political meddling to either mask governmental failures or deflect attention from scandals is added to this, the result is a malfunctioning justice system in which people have very little faith.

The CESIJ report includes numerous recommendations for lowering impunity levels in Mexico, among them professionalizing institutions, improving transparency and inter-institution cooperation, and building truly politically independent justice institutions. While these are all salient points, improving Mexico's judicial and security systems will also require a budget, capacity and political will that Mexico has so far shown little sign of possessing.