[Senate Prints 112-36]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

112th Congress 
 2d Session                 COMMITTEE PRINT                     S. Prt.

                          JUDICIAL AND POLICE

                           REFORMS IN MEXICO:

                       ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS

                          FOR A LAWFUL SOCIETY


                        A MAJORITY STAFF REPORT

                      PREPARED FOR THE USE OF THE


                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                      One Hundred Twelfth Congress

                             Second Session

                              July 9, 2012


          Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations

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                COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS          

            JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts, Chairman          
BARBARA BOXER, California            RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey          BOB CORKER, Tennessee
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland         JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho
ROBERT P. CASEY, Jr., Pennsylvania   MARCO RUBIO, Florida
JIM WEBB, Virginia                   JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma
JEANNE SHAHEEN, New Hampshire        JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
RICHARD J. DURBIN, Illinois          JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
TOM UDALL, New Mexico                MIKE LEE, Utah
              William C. Danvers, Staff Director          
       Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Republican Staff Director          


                            C O N T E N T S

Letter of Transmittal............................................     v
Introduction.....................................................     1
Recommendations..................................................     3
The Merida Initiative............................................     4
Police Reforms...................................................     6
Judicial Reforms.................................................     9
The Future of Bilateral Security Cooperation.....................    11


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL


                              United States Senate,
                            Committee on Foreign Relations,
                                      Washington, DC, July 9, 2012.
    Dear Colleagues: Mexico is one of the United States' most 
important partners. Recently, bilateral security cooperation 
has deepened and matured as Mexico and the U.S. seek to address 
drug trafficking and the violence associated with it.
    In April of this year, I dispatched Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee majority staff to Mexico City and Monterrey 
where they conducted extensive interviews with Mexican and U.S. 
officials, top policy thinkers and human rights advocates, 
closely examining U.S.-Mexico bilateral security cooperation. 
Their findings are included in this report. I hope these 
findings and recommendations will inform policy discussions 
during the forthcoming periods of political transition in both 
                                             John F. Kerry,


                          JUDICIAL AND POLICE

                           REFORMS IN MEXICO:

                       ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS

                          FOR A LAWFUL SOCIETY



    2012 is a presidential election year for both Mexico and 
the United States. In December, Mexico's new president, Enrique 
Pena Nieto, will assume office and the following month the 
victor of the U.S. presidential elections will commence his 
term. New leadership brings change, and in the Mexico-U.S. 
context, a leadership change could alter the existing bilateral 
security cooperation dynamic. Amidst potential change, this 
committee report strongly recommends maintaining robust 
bilateral support for the Merida Initiative, and calls upon the 
incoming Mexican and U.S. administrations to expand their 
support for Mexico's reform of its judicial sector and police 
as the best means to reduce the high levels of violent crime in 
    For the past five and half years, the Calderon 
administration has been the architect of Mexico's campaign 
against organized crime, the primary focus of which has been 
taking down organized crime bosses (popularly referred to as 
``capos'') and deploying large numbers of military personnel to 
high crime areas. The U.S. Government has joined Mexico in its 
effort to combat organized crime through the framework of the 
Merida Initiative. To be clear, the strategy is Mexican-led, 
and U.S. assistance to Mexico is a small fraction of Mexico's 
own expenditures. Officials in Mexico and the United States 
stress that Merida has served as a catalyst for a more profound 
law enforcement partnership--an acknowledgment that, because 
the challenges are shared, the burden is best shared as well.
    Law enforcement cooperation between Mexico and the United 
States in the 20th century was hobbled by mutual suspicion; 
when cooperation did occur, it was generally because officials 
were willing to buck the prevailing distrust to solve specific, 
high priority cases. Despite these deeply rooted sensitivities, 
the Calderon administration has progressively opened the door 
to greater bilateral law enforcement cooperation, all the while 
imposing the ground rules governing U.S. support. Eager to 
institutionalize a cooperative law enforcement relationship 
with Mexico similar to that enjoyed by the United States with 
Canada, the U.S. Government took a gradualist, long-term 
approach to building operational links with Mexican law 
enforcement and judicial sector officials. Initially, the 
Calderon administration saw the Merida Initiative as a way to 
receive sensitive U.S. law enforcement information to enable 
Mexican authorities to more accurately target organized crime 
and to obtain big ticket counternarcotics equipment; Mexican 
officials were slower to express openness to receiving U.S. 
capacity and institution-building training support for their 
law enforcement and judicial sector personnel. As greater trust 
developed between both sides, law enforcement cooperation under 
the Merida Initiative progressively deepened and broadened. 
This highly positive momentum has helped facilitate progress on 
other important issues, including trade, environmental 
protection and energy.
    Despite the Calderon administration's progressively better 
record at taking down key organized crime bosses, this 
``capo''-centric anti-crime strategy has been widely criticized 
for deemphasizing the daily security needs of average Mexicans. 
Moreover, heavy reliance upon the military to quell lawlessness 
and directly confront the narcotics syndicates appears to have 
been largely ineffective--and in some instances to have 
exacerbated the violence suffered by civilians.
    Although President-elect Pena Nieto, like the two other 
main presidential candidates, expressed support during his 
campaign for maintaining close bilateral law enforcement 
cooperation, he will undoubtedly confront immense public 
pressure to quickly and publicly address wide-spread concerns 
about violence and insecurity. Since December 2006, when 
President Calderon launched his campaign against organized 
crime, Mexico has tallied over 55,000 drug-related homicides. 
The horrific tactics utilized by the criminal organizations to 
intimidate both their rivals and the authorities have burned 
deeply into the Mexican public consciousness. All too 
frequently mass killings include women and minors. Bodies 
visibly mutilated are hung from bridges and severed heads are 
deposited in public places. In at least one instance, a pig's 
head was sown onto a torso. Unsurprisingly, there is a 
widespread conviction among Mexicans that bilateral law 
enforcement cooperation should not just target organized crime, 
but must also help Mexico reduce its current unacceptably high 
levels of violence.
    The Calderon administration's campaign against organized 
crime has, for the most part, enjoyed the support of a majority 
of Mexicans, but large numbers of Mexicans also doubt whether 
their government will prevail. At the core of these doubts is 
the government's inability to clamp down on the hyper-violence 
occurring in certain parts of Mexico. Simply put, most Mexicans 
mistrust the federal and state authorities' main tools to fight 
crime, the police and judicial system, given their record of 
pervasive corruption and ineffectiveness.
    The Calderon administration has focused its civilian 
institutional reform efforts on strengthening its federal law 
enforcement institutions' capacity to combat organized crime, 
accompanied by a more modest effort to bolster the federal 
government's prosecutorial capabilities. By comparison, support 
for reforming and strengthening the federal judiciary has been 
halting, and it was not until late in Calderon's tenure that he 
began addressing the need to reform the state-level police 
    Seconding the view of many Mexican analysts, this committee 
report emphasizes that it is vitally important for the incoming 
Mexican administration to modernize the justice sector and 
implement profound reform of police forces, identify sufficient 
resources to do so effectively, and aggressively seek to secure 
public support for these reforms. U.S. policy should support 
Mexico's efforts to this end, as this approach holds the best 
promise to more effectively combat organized criminal groups in 
Mexico and, equally importantly, to advance the long-term 
security and well-being of all Mexican citizens.


   This committee report recommends that the U.S. Congress 
        ensure adequate, sustained funding, ideally at $250 
        million a year for the next four years, for the Merida 
        Initiative to help Mexico, among other things, 
        accelerate the establishment of an accusatorial 
        judicial system at the federal and state levels and to 
        assist, in close coordination with Mexican federal 
        authorities, those Mexican states seeking to reform 
        their state police forces. U.S. funding, though dwarfed 
        by the resources that Mexicans themselves are 
        investing, is nonetheless vitally important. Utilizing 
        the ``train-the-trainer'' model, U.S. expertise is 
        building Mexican capacity, which is important for both 
        early-stage implementation and long-term sustainability 
        of efforts.

   U.S. officials should stress the importance of police and 
        judicial reforms to the incoming Mexican 
        administration, impressing upon them the high priority 
        that the U.S. Government assigns to the reform efforts. 
        These reforms are long-term, technically difficult, 
        require political cooperation across party lines as 
        well as cooperation between federal and state-level 
        authorities, and therefore do not lend themselves to 
        splashy public relations wins. U.S. encouragement can 
        play an important role in ensuring continued reforms, 
        perhaps at an accelerated pace, under a new Mexican 

   The U.S. Government should increase efforts to strengthen 
        the implementation within Mexico's federal and state 
        police forces of accountability mechanisms--such as 
        effective vetting of personnel and the establishment of 
        empowered, autonomous internal investigative units--to 
        prevent corruption and human rights abuses. 
        Accountability mechanisms will ensure that police 
        personnel are held responsible for crimes and abuses 
        they commit, and are essential elements for increasing 
        Mexicans' trust in their country's law enforcement 

   Mexican federal-level police reforms are now generally 
        better-resourced and more advanced than state-level 
        efforts, despite the fact that the majority of crimes 
        fall within state jurisdiction. U.S. support for police 
        reforms should increasingly target state-level efforts.

   Even if previously viewed as a necessary stop-gap given the 
        weakness of the civilian police authorities, military 
        deployments to combat organized crime have achieved 
        limited success and, in some cases, have led to human 
        rights violations. Increased civilian police 
        capabilities will obviate the need to deploy military 
        personnel for domestic security purposes. U.S. efforts 
        to strengthen Mexican police capabilities should 
        simultaneously encourage the reduction of the Mexican 
        military's role in the provision of domestic security.

   The U.S. Government needs to continue strengthening the 
        prosecutorial capabilities of the Attorney General's 
        Office and help build the prosecutorial capabilities of 
        its state-level counterparts. Being respectful of the 
        separation of powers, the U.S. Government should work 
        together with the Mexican Government to promote 
        judicial reform at both the federal and state-levels.

   The U.S. Embassy should work with its Mexican counterparts 
        and civil society to promote greater public awareness 
        and understanding of judicial reform efforts. Public 
        misperceptions, and a lack of understanding in some 
        state legislatures, unnecessarily hobble reform 
        efforts. Studies delineating the superior performance 
        of the oral-based, accusatorial judicial system that is 
        being implemented in some Mexican states should be made 
        publicly available.

   Through both the judicial and the police reform efforts, 
        Mexico has the opportunity to increase human rights 
        protections. All U.S. efforts should incorporate a 
        human rights lens. U.S. officials should consult widely 
        with Mexican civil society, and the Secretary of State 
        should use the congressionally mandated reporting 
        process as an avenue to encourage deeper and more rapid 
        progress on the human rights conditions set forth in 
        the FY 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-

                         The Merida Initiative

    Named after a Mexican city on the Yucatan Peninsula that 
hosted Presidents Calderon and Bush at the strategy's 
conception in 2007, the Merida Initiative has developed into a 
multifaceted cooperative security effort between the United 
States and Mexico. Since 2008, the U.S Congress has 
appropriated $1.9 billion for the Initiative. As of April 2012, 
the U.S. Government had provided approximately $1 billion worth 
of equipment, technical assistance and training; after a slow 
start, the delivery process hit its stride in 2011 with an 
annual delivery of $500 million. Reflecting a deliberative 
bilateral consultative process, U.S. officials have channeled 
assistance to complement Mexico's own efforts and provide 
expertise and equipment that both sides judge will add value. 
Mexican spending dwarfs U.S. contributions; Mexican Government 
officials estimate that, for every U.S. dollar spent, Mexico 
has contributed thirteen dollars toward the shared goals of the 
Merida Initiative.
    In Merida's earliest phase, bilateral cooperation focused 
on sharing sensitive law enforcement information to disrupt 
organized crime as well as on the delivery of costly 
counternarcotics equipment to military and federal law 
enforcement agencies (including the provision of helicopters, 
maritime surveillance planes, major system-wide computer 
upgrades and non-intrusive scanners). As the cooperative 
process unfolded, the Mexican Government expressed willingness 
to receive U.S. institutional capacity building assistance 
training for its judicial sector and law enforcement personnel.
    Under the Obama administration, the Merida Initiative was 
formally organized around a four-pillared bilateral structure: 
disrupt capacity of organized crime to operate; 
institutionalize capacity to sustain rule of law; create a 21st 
century border; and build strong and resilient communities. 
Under this structure, the Obama administration significantly 
increased its funding for rule of law institutional capacity 
building and training; maintained robust U.S. support and 
intelligence sharing for Mexican efforts to disrupt organized 
crime; deemphasized purchasing big ticket equipment for the 
Mexican military and federal police; and initiated modest 
programs to support border cooperation as well as crime 
prevention programs in agreed upon urban areas in northern 
Mexico. Reflecting these developments, the largest allocation 
(perhaps by a factor of three) of the FY 2012 Merida budget 
will be directed to rule of law capacity building programs, 
followed by progressively smaller amounts for disrupting 
organized crime, creating a 21st century border and building 
resilient communities.
    Proponents of the current Mexican security strategy argue 
that the Calderon administration's determination to prevail 
over the drug trafficking syndicates, buttressed by a dramatic 
increase in the government's security budget (up 70 percent 
over 2006 levels), has begun to yield significant progress in 
combatting organized crime. Today, Mexico has considerably more 
capable federal law enforcement agencies and, for the first 
time in its history, scores of key criminal leaders have been 
arrested or killed and cartel operations have been disrupted. 
On an aggregated national basis, drug trafficking-related 
homicides are no longer skyrocketing and seem to have 
plateaued, albeit at an extremely high level. Moreover, 
multifaceted crime prevention programs and better policing have 
led to reductions of drug trafficking-related homicides in 
certain hyper-violent locations, notably the border city of 
    Critics argue that the Mexican Government's preoccupation 
with capturing organized crime leaders has precipitated 
unacceptably high levels of drug trafficking-related homicides. 
They also fear that the fragmentation and resulting 
marginalization of certain previously dominant narcotics 
trafficking organizations has created a landscape with one or 
two more formidable national criminal syndicates and a plethora 
of smaller crime groups which still move large amounts of 
narcotics and perpetuate a significant percentage of the 
violence, along with extortion, kidnappings and robberies. The 
Mexican Government's deployment of large numbers of military 
forces to reinforce the thinly stretched federal law 
enforcement agencies has engendered strong criticism, 
particularly from national and international human rights 
organizations, given the disturbing increase of allegations of 
grave human rights violations against civilians by military 
    Mindful of U.S. security policy in Latin America in decades 
past, the U.S. Congress included human rights conditions on 
Merida assistance, withholding 15 percent of certain funds to 
Mexican security forces until the Secretary of State reports 
that Mexico is taking action on specific human rights concerns 
such as eliminating the use of torture and ill-treatment to 
obtain evidence and prosecuting in the civilian justice system 
police and soldiers alleged to have committed abuses against 
civilians. The Secretary's next report will likely be submitted 
to Congress by the fall of 2012.
    There is widespread agreement that without a concerted, 
coordinated bilateral effort that seriously addresses U.S. 
demand for narcotics as well as U.S.-based firearm smuggling 
and money laundering, little can be done to effectively reduce 
drug trafficking in Mexico. The U.S. Government has devoted 
major resources to reduce domestic demand for narcotics; the 
Office of the National Drug Control Policy is funded at about 
$25 billion a year, at least a third of which targets domestic 
demand. While this effort has achieved significant 
successes,\1\ the reality is that this societal ill will 
bedevil the United States for the foreseeable future. The U.S. 
Government's efforts to clamp down on arms smuggling into 
Mexico have been constrained by legal imperatives and 
undermined by political infighting. Although combating U.S.-
based money laundering benefiting Mexican criminal 
organizations appears to be the easiest of the three 
challenges, U.S. Government agencies have been slow to devote 
the resources necessary to develop a robust capability to 
combat it.
    \1\ The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reports that drug 
consumption in the United States is steadily declining. Among the 
population aged 15-64, the consumption rate is down from 2.5 percent in 
2006 to 1.9 percent in 2009. Approximately 617,000 people aged 12 or 
older used cocaine for the first time in the past 12 months in 2009, a 
decrease from 722,000 a year earlier.
    In the committee report's assessment, the Mexican 
Government can best sustain strong popular support for an 
aggressive campaign against organized crime if it can 
demonstrate to the Mexican people that it is also successful at 
significantly reducing the violence inflicted by organized 
crime and its allies. The committee report believes that the 
best way to achieve these two objectives is through the 
continued promotion of police and judicial sector reform.

                             Police Reforms

    The Mexican Government seeks to regain public trust in the 
police whose credibility remains badly tarnished by pervasive 
corruption and ineffectiveness. This will be no easy feat; in a 
2010 public opinion poll, only 8 percent of Mexicans surveyed 
expressed strong confidence in the police.\2\
    \2\ As stated in a General Distribution Congressional Research 
Service Trip Report from Clare Seelke, Specialist in Latin American 
Affairs, distributed on May 9th, 2012.
    The Calderon administration has made significant 
investments to strengthen its federal law enforcement 
institutions' capacity to combat organized crime. The primary 
beneficiary has been the Mexican federal police which has 
increased five-fold, expanding from 6,500 to over thirty-six 
thousand, and which qualitatively improved its ranks by 
recruiting 7,000 university-educated entrants. By comparison, 
the Mexican Attorney General's Office, which fields a much 
smaller federal-level police force specializing in 
investigations, has received less of the central government's 
largess, and has taken more modest steps to enhance its 
institutional capabilities. Both organizations have implemented 
procedures to combat pervasive internal corruption by vetting 
their personnel through background investigations as well as 
regular toxicology, medical, psychological and polygraph 
    Some analysts argue that the larger and more effective 
federal entities have thrown organized crime groups on the 
defensive and that these syndicates do not represent a national 
security threat to the Mexican Government. They point out that 
the Mexican Government has killed or captured scores of key 
organized crime leaders (extraditing many to the United 
States), precipitating the near demise of some organized 
criminal networks and the fracturing of others. Nevertheless, 
it is clear that two formidable organized crime networks, 
Sinaloa and the Zetas, and their respective local criminal 
allies, are aggressively battling each other, as well as the 
federal government, to retain control over their now 
diversified illicit activities--which also include arms 
dealing, extortion, human trafficking and money laundering--in 
their fiefdoms. These criminal organizations wield intimidating 
influence over certain state and municipal governments, and 
inflict horrifically high levels of violence whenever their 
territorial primacy is challenged.
    Because of Mexico's federal structure of government, the 
federal police and the Attorney General's Office's police force 
are, and will likely remain, too small to reduce the hyper-
violence engulfing certain Mexican states. As a result, they 
look to the Mexican states to take on this responsibility more 
effectively. However, there is an ongoing jurisdictional debate 
between Mexican federal and state prosecutors over who should 
be investigating the lion's share of the drug trafficking-
related crimes, especially homicides. The federal police and 
the Attorney General's Office's claim that they lack the 
jurisdiction, under the country's federal structure, to take 
enforcement action against many of the crimes perpetrated by 
the organized criminal syndicates and their affiliates; they 
point out that the vast majority of crimes committed in 
Mexico--92 percent by some estimates--including many crimes 
committed by organized criminal syndicates, fall under the 
legal jurisdiction of Mexico's states and municipalities. On 
the other hand, many state prosecutors argue that homicides 
tied to organized crime should, according to federal law, be 
investigated by federal prosecutors. One possible mid-term 
solution to this jurisdictional conundrum would be for the 
Mexican Congress to federalize more crimes so that they would 
clearly fall into the jurisdiction of the presently more 
capable federal police and the Attorney General's Office. 
However, given limitations on the ultimate size of the federal 
law enforcement agencies, this is a second best solution.
    Jurisdictional debates aside, this committee report 
champions the view of many Mexican experts that over the long 
run the Mexican federal government's anti-organized crime 
campaign can only succeed if it can enlist the effective 
cooperation of state and municipal (at least from the larger of 
the municipalities) police forces. Reflecting the reality that 
there are over 350,000 poorly trained and inadequately 
resourced police distributed among the Federal District, 31 
Mexican states and over 2,500 municipalities, this is an 
enormous challenge. The Calderon administration attempted to 
address this challenge by merging all of the municipal police 
forces into the state-level police forces; this approach was 
rejected by the Mexican Congress as many legislators viewed it 
as a power grab by federal and state authorities.
    The United States Government has been keenly interested in 
forging a cooperative law enforcement relationship with Mexican 
state-level, and certain municipal-level, authorities. Until 
very recently, however, highly sensitive sovereignty issues 
precluded such U.S. involvement with local officials. In 2010, 
both countries began holding discussions on how the United 
States could work with Mexican law enforcement authorities in 
Chihuahua State to counter the violence raging in Cuidad 
Juarez. These discussions evolved into an understanding that 
the United States would channel all assistance to Mexican state 
and municipal police forces through the central government's 
Executive Secretariat for the National Public Security System 
(SNSP), an agency charged with coordinating federal public 
security funding and training to the states. Washington also 
agreed to follow the Mexican federal government's lead as to 
which Mexican states would be prioritized to receive U.S. 
police professionalization assistance. In 2011, both 
governments identified three high violence states bordering the 
United States--Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas--as 
priorities to receive Merida Initiative assistance to 
professionalize the state police forces; in 2012, the Mexican 
Government proposed expanding the priority list to eight 
states. Reinforcing this effort, both countries agreed to 
support the establishment of a law enforcement academy to train 
state police from across Mexico; this facility opened in May 
2012 in Puebla.\3\
    \3\ U.S. support to Mexico's strategy of enhancing state-level 
police professionalization is taking various forms. The United States 
is placing Senior Police Advisors/Mentors at the state police academies 
in Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas to help channel U.S. 
training assistance. The U.S. is also helping develop major crimes task 
forces, known in Mexico as ``Accredited State Police Units,'' that will 
be created in a minimum of 21 states and in the Federal District. The 
initial goal is to establish at least one of these task forces in each 
of the participating states, although Nuevo Leon is committed to 
creating three separate units. These ``Accredited State Police Units'' 
will be composed of 422 specially vetted and trained personnel who will 
be the frontrunners of larger police reform efforts within their 
states, and in the meantime will become their states' trusted partners 
to the federal law enforcement agencies. This effort is still in its 
early stages of implementation. Mexico has trained approximately 1,300 
investigators, 450 analysts and 1,900 operations personnel. In 
addition, the United States and Mexico have collaborated to help the 
states root out corruption within their ranks. The United States has 
provided training, technical assistance and equipment to help endow 
priority states with the capabilities to vet their own police forces on 
a regular basis. The SNSP plays a key role in ensuring that the state-
level vetting procedures conform to federal standards. A complementary 
U.S. initiative helps state police forces establish their own Internal 
Affairs Units to investigate corruption and other abuses. As required 
by U.S. law, U.S. officials implementing these programs must be 
vigilant in ensuring that the Mexican state-level police officials 
receiving U.S. funded training and equipment have been rigorously 
screened for human rights violations.
    There are credible reports that large police cleansing 
operations designed to publicly demonstrate anti-corruption 
gains have resulted in unlawful detentions and the extraction 
of confessions by torture--some of the very abuses they were 
meant to eliminate. Without accompanying accountability 
mechanisms, wholesale replacement of police personnel is 
unlikely to lead to a major reduction of police misconduct. 
Even when vetting mechanisms are in place, there are instances 
in which vetted members of newly established police have been 
charged for serious crimes. To effectively promote police 
reform at the federal and state levels, Mexican police 
officials must build and safeguard rigorously effective 
mechanisms to continuously vet police personnel and to conduct 
independent internal investigations into crimes and malfeasance 
committed by police personnel, prosecuting wrongdoers in 
criminal courts where appropriate. Inculcating a culture of 
lawfulness in new police units will take time, and this 
challenge underscores the importance of not reproducing the 
flaws of Mexico's old law enforcement institutions in the 
process of forming new ones.

                            Judicial Reforms

    Mexico's slow and opaque inquisitorial justice system 
fosters impunity. This paper-based system is hobbled by high 
pretrial detention rates, prison overcrowding, trials conducted 
with little to no transparency and the use of tainted evidence; 
there is considerable evidence of the use of torture to obtain 
confessions for serious crimes. Mexico's inquisitorial judicial 
system has proven inefficient and highly vulnerable to 
corruption. The cumulative result of the system's many flaws is 
that Mexico has been plagued with an unacceptably high impunity 
rate--only two percent of reported crimes lead to a conviction.
    Recognizing that this system was inadequate to meet the 
demands of modern-day Mexico, the Mexican Congress launched in 
2008 an ambitious transformation of its judiciary. The 
resulting constitutional amendment requires that, by 2016, all 
state and federal judicial systems transition from the 
inquisitorial system to a more agile, transparent, oral-based 
accusatorial justice system.
    Federal and state-level reforms to implement the 
accusatorial system seek to improve the transparency, 
efficiency and quality of Mexico's judicial system. 
Accusatorial trials feature oral arguments in an open court, 
guaranteed opportunities for witness participation, better 
protection of evidence, safeguards to prevent against 
confessions obtained by torture, the use of alternative dispute 
resolutions and the presumption of innocence until proven 
    Many observers fault the Calderon administration for 
failing to assign to federal-level judicial reform the same 
urgency as to the take-downs of key criminal leaders. They 
argue that while the increased effectiveness of the federal 
police has led to a surge of arrests, a commensurate increase 
in prosecutions has not occurred, resulting in even more 
egregious prison overcrowding and the revolving door release of 
many criminals. Nevertheless, draft legislation to implement a 
new Federal Code for Criminal Procedures for an accusatorial 
system has slowly, but surely, gathered support within the 
Mexican Congress. Although most observers believe that the new 
code will ultimately be approved by the Mexican Congress, it is 
not expected to be considered until early 2013 given the 
electoral calendar and competing congressional priorities. The 
absence of reform at the federal level means that federal 
crimes, such as those related to organized crime, are still 
being prosecuted in the inquisitorial system, with all of its 
inherent weaknesses. At the same time, while many states have 
moved forward with reforms independently of the federal 
government, the failure to approve a new Federal Code for 
Criminal Procedures has reduced the pressure on states to make 
the necessary changes in a timely manner. Some of the laggards 
waited until after presidential elections this year to move 
forward on reforms, which will inevitably push them against the 
2016 deadline.

                                             Reforms' Early Results
  State-level implementation of judicial reforms varies widely among the 31 federal states and the Federal
 District. Only three states--Chihuahua, the State of Mexico, and Morelos--have fully transitioned into the
 accusatory model, although two others, Oaxaca and Zacatecas, have also made significant progress in
 implementing the new system. A comparison between the 27 states that have yet to fully implement judicial
 reforms and the five states that have been implementing the new system for a minimum of one year illustrate the
 benefits of the accusatorial system. The five reform states generally demonstrate better victim participation,
 improved accountability for judges, greater use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, more selective
 pre-trial detention, fewer number of days required to resolve a case, increased efficiency and, notably,
 tougher sentences, over the non-reform states. That said, there is also a significant variation in performance
 even among the reform states. USAID commissioned the study and it will be released later this year.

    An inherently lengthy process, judicial reform will 
probably require a generation to institutionalize. Instructing 
lawyers in the new system will require new textbooks, revised 
law school curricula and training for law school professors. 
Many legal professionals accustomed to the inquisitorial system 
are reluctant to shift to the new accusatorial process. 
Enlisting federal judges, who are given to zealously protecting 
their independence from the Mexican executive branch, presents 
a particular challenge. Proponents of judicial reform also face 
an uphill battle against public opinion, given that many 
perceive the accusatorial system as overly lenient on the 
accused. In Chihuahua, where the accusatorial system is fully 
operational, a murder suspect in a highly publicized case was 
released because three judges argued that the state prosecutors 
had not built enough evidence, and the resulting public outcry 
led to legislative modifications that have undermined 
protections for the accused.\4\
    \4\ In anticipation of the eventual implementation of the new 
criminal procedure code, the Mexican Government, with U.S. support, is 
preparing personnel for the impending reforms. The U.S. Agency for 
International Development (USAID) focuses on state-level assistance and 
the Department of Justice (DOJ) concentrates on federal-level reforms. 
Working with seven Mexican states to implement judicial reforms, USAID 
has trained prosecutors, engaged civil society, promoted alternative 
dispute resolutions and facilitated judicial exchanges at the state 
level. USAID plans to expand assistance and work in a limited capacity 
with 13 more states. DOJ focuses on teaching Mexican instructors for 
the federal police and prosecutors about new procedures and roles under 
an accusatory system. DOJ has trained personnel in the Attorney 
General's Office on how to combat organized crime, human trafficking, 
kidnapping, money laundering, as well as refining skills regarding 
fugitive apprehension and forensic sciences.
    Getting protection right--both physical and legal 
protections--for the various legal actors might prove difficult 
under the new code, but is nonetheless critical. Given that the 
accusatorial model promotes transparency through open trials, 
witnesses and judges may find themselves at elevated risk of 
attacks upon their person. The new system must incorporate 
adequate protection mechanisms; intimidation of these actors 
would grievously undermine the success of the new code. The 
accused are afforded more protections in that the accusatorial 
system assumes innocence until proven guilty. However, the 
constitutional reform passed in 2008 allows for a practice 
known as ``arraigo'' where individuals can be detained up to 80 
days without charges while they are being investigated. 
Technically, ``arraigo'' is only legal in situations where 
there is a suspicion of involvement in organized crime. Mexican 
and international human rights advocates decry these detentions 
as violations of due process guarantees, such as the 
presumption of innocence, and express concern that those 
detained under ``arraigo'' are at greater risk of human rights 
abuses; U.S. Government programs need to support efforts that 
eliminate the use of ``arraigo.''

                Future of Bilateral Security Cooperation

    The United States should continue its strong support for 
Mexico's efforts to reform and strengthen its federal and 
state-level police forces and judicial systems. The United 
States can effectively support Mexico through high-level policy 
engagement reinforcing developing cooperative anti-organized 
crime linkages, including partnerships between the U.S. 
Department of Justice and the Attorney General's Office, U.S. 
law enforcement agencies and the Mexican federal police and 
others, and U.S. federal and state-level courts and their 
Mexican counterparts. Mexican civil society can make a vitally 
important contribution to the success of this bilateral 
cooperation, and the United States needs to continue to solicit 
its views.
    The United States Government must also do more to address 
U.S.-based crimes associated with violence in Mexico. It has a 
responsibility to its own citizens, and has made a commitment 
to the Mexican Government, to reduce U.S. demand for narcotics. 
U.S. law enforcement efforts should increasingly combat the 
smuggling of weapons into Mexico and the use of U.S. financial 
institutions to launder the illicit proceeds of the Mexican 
criminal organizations.
    The United States also has a vital stake in supporting good 
and effective governance in our immediate neighbor. Mexico's 
ability to dismantle organized criminal groups and reduce the 
hyper-violence occurring in certain portions of its territory 
depends in large part on whether the federal police and 
judicial system, together with their state counterparts, can 
successfully arrest and prosecute dangerous criminals. To its 
credit, the Calderon administration has launched this effort, 
but the primary responsibility to consolidate it will fall to 
its successor and the state governments.
    President-elect Pena Nieto has expressed his intention to 
continue robust law enforcement cooperation with the United 
States. In all probability, Mexico's new leader will 
reconfigure some elements of the current anti-organized crime 
strategy but will maintain most of the critically important 
elements of the bilateral Merida Initiative security 
    This committee report recommends sustained, robust funding 
and policy support for the essential building blocks of the 
Merida Initiative, police and judicial reforms, to ensure the 
success of this vitally important cooperative effort.