“The justice system itself was put on trial, and found guilty”
More than a year has passed since one of the most heinous crimes in modern Mexico, when police officers and drug cartel hit men abducted and killed 43 students in Iguala. The tragedy shook Mexico, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding justice. With the world watching, the Government of President Enrique Peña Nieto had the chance to prove it could deliver justice. But the investigation has shown the deep flaws in the police force and prosecutors. A report by a group of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, evidenced a slow response, possible torture of suspects and damage to key evidence. The justice system itself was put on trial, and found guilty. The vices detailed in the report are typical in Mexico. 1) Torture is widespread. 2) Corruption in the security forces is rife, as shown by prison guards helping the kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo) escape prison. And 3) investigators are often incompetent, as shown by the mishandling of crime scenes. Many Mexicans have lost all faith in the justice system. They have no confidence in anything the Government says. This breakdown of trust has painful implications. Thousands of Mexicans have formed vigilante militias to take justice into their own hands. More unrest may well follow. Across Latin America, mothers still search for their children who disappeared in “dirty wars” against leftist guerrillas that Governments waged in the 1970s and 1980s. It is chilling that cartel killers use this same tactic of disappearing victims. They do it not just to hide evidence; it is a powerful form of terror. The failures in the Iguala investigation have taken a toll on Mr. Peña Nieto, who has fallen to a 35% approval rating. The US, in order to support Mexico in fighting the cartels, should do more than provide Black Hawk helicopters. It needs to help Mexico rebuild its institutions from the bottom up.