Mexico Police Chief’s Firing a Rare Response to Excessive Force

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has fired the country’s Federal Police chief following a damning report by Mexico’s top human rights agency, which found the force responsible for the extrajudicial killing of at least 22 individuals. 

Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong announced on August 29 that Enrique Galindo has been discharged as commissioner of Mexico’s Federal Police, reported the New York Times. The interior minister said Galindo was removed in order to facilitate a transparent investigation into “recent events,” reported El Universal

Although Osorio Chong did not specify which “recent events” he was referring to, the decision to fire Galindo comes on the heels of a recent report by Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos – CNDH) alleging the “arbitrary execution” of at least 22 individuals by Federal Police officers during an armed confrontation in May 2015.

Galindo and other high-level security officials have maintained that the officers’ use of force was justified because they had come under fire from members of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG). The human rights commission’s investigation, however, found that officers had tampered with evidence at the scene of the shootout and that many of the victims had been shot either from behind or at close range. 

Osorio Chong announced that Manelich Castilla Craviotto, who currently serves as director of the Gendarmerie division of the Federal Police, will replace Galindo as commissioner.

InSight Crime Analysis

Galindo’s ouster is a departure from past instances in which Mexican authorities have failed to follow through on CNDH investigations into human rights violations by the security forces. In October 2014, for example, the CNDH concluded that the army had summarily killed at least 15 people in a warehouse earlier that year. But this March a military tribunal acquitted all but one of the soldiers allegedly involved. Similarly another CNDH investigation into excessive use of force by military and federal police officers in January 2015 has yet to result in any convictions. 

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Dismissing Galindo is only the first step, however, and there is no certainty that the move will lead to arrests or a thorough probe into potential criminal wrongdoing. The CNDH can make recommendations to the government, but its mandate is limited to investigating and documenting human rights abuses. And the Attorney General’s Office has, at best, a mixed track record when it comes to prosecuting high-profile cases of rights violations by the security forces.

It would therefore be premature to consider Galindo’s firing a sign that Mexican authorities are taking aim at the widespread impunity protecting military and police officers from prosecution in cases of excessive use of force.

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