Mexico Investigates Two Top Judicial Officials for Crime Ties

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Mexico is investigating two top judicial officials, who have previously issued favorable rulings for suspected drug traffickers, for ties to organized crime, a reminder that judicial weakness remains a major liability in the country’s drug war.

The Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SIEDO) has opened formal investigations into the magistrate Jesus Guadalupe Luna Altamirano, pictured above, and the judge Efrain Cazares Lopez for ties to criminal groups, Animal Politico reported.

The judicial officials were suspended from their posts last week by the Council of the Federal Judiciary, the organ charged with supervising and disciplining Mexico’s court system. Both suspects were reportedly suspended in connection to the verdicts they issued in drug trafficking cases, independent from the SIEDO’s investigation.

Luna ordered the 2008 release of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son, and last summer, citing a lack of evidence, he upheld a verdict clearing Sandra Avila Beltran, alias “Queen of the Pacific,” of organized crime charges, despite the 2004 US indictment linking her to cocaine trafficking, the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors filed a complaint against Cazares for releasing several Michoacan mayors arrested in 2009, whom the attorney general accused of ties to the Familia Michoacana.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrests cast further doubts on the effectiveness of Mexico’s legal system, frequently criticized for its high levels of impunity. In the states most affected by criminal violence, as much as 90 percent of homicides go unpunished. In Chihuahua, the 2010 impunity rate was 96.4 percent, according to a report released earlier this year by security analysis group Mexico Evalua. Corrupt judges aren’t the only reason why impunity levels remain so high, but the relatively weak sanctions issued against dishonest judicial officials means the pace of reform has been slow and disappointing.

It is uncertain how far the investigations against these judges will go. President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) may want to stifle a potentially embarrassing investigation as the July 1 election approaches, but the federal government may also strive to strengthen its image of cracking down on corruption. Especially since Calderon has long been accused of going easy on El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel, the public prosecution of the magistrate who released the drug kingpin’s son may help clean up the PAN’s image.

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