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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report on Mexico, Reducing Extreme Violence

Calls for Increased Support for Institutional Reforms

Washington, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) today released a staff report entitled, “Judicial and Police Reforms in Mexico:  Essential Building Blocks for a Lawful Society.” The report calls on 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 Mexico.

The report was compiled by Senate Foreign Relations Committee majority staff at the request of Chairman Kerry and was based on visits to Mexico, an examination of ongoing reforms and U.S. Government policy supporting these reforms. 

“Mexico's presidential transition provides a new window to discuss and debate the best security strategies to deal with the serious violence plaguing Mexico,” said Sen. Kerry.  “As the political landscape continues to change in both countries, this report underscores the importance of continuity in two critical areas – judicial and police reform.  Mexicans have committed to these fundamental reforms and as tough as they will be to implement they are fundamental for any sustained reduction in violence in Mexico.  These are worthy efforts that must succeed.”   

Sharing the view of many Mexican analysts, the Committee Report emphasizes the importance of the incoming Mexican Administration to modernize the justice sector, implement profound reforms of police forces, identify sufficient resources to do so effectively, and aggressively seek public support for these reforms.  The report found that this approach would most effectively combat organized criminal groups in Mexico and advance the long-term security and well-being of all Mexican citizens if U.S. policy supported Mexico’s efforts. 

The report made the following policy recommendations:

  • The 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 Mérida 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 administration.
  • 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 agencies.
  • 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 human rights issues.

The full Committee Report may be found here.

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