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Rule of Law and Judicial Reform in Mexico

The Obama administration should work toward reaching an agreement with its Mexican counterparts to establish an annual binational review panel to assess progress in meeting the objectives of both countries in areas of reducing organized crime violence, strengthening judicial and law enforcement cooperation, and reducing demand for illegal drugs in both countries.

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The United States needs to provide more funding for drug demand reduction programs in the United States, and in particular to strengthen the country’s addiction treatment system. Compared to other policy options for reducing drug consumption, treatment has shown itself to be especially cost-effective. In 1994, a landmark study by the RAND Corporation found treatment for heavy cocaine users to be 23 times more effective than drug crop eradication and other source-country programs, 11 times more effective than interdiction, and seven times more effective than domestic enforcement at reducing cocaine consumption. Improving access to high-quality treatment services would multiply the important benefits that treatment already delivers.

Secondly, the U.S. Senate must ratify the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, or CIFTA, which was signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1997 but has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. CIFTA aims to “prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials; [and] to promote and facilitate cooperation and exchange of information and experience among States Parties to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials.”

While CIFTA is consistent with current U.S. laws and regulations and would place no new requirements or obligations on the United States, ratifying this important regional convention would be an important expression of U.S. interest in playing a key role in the regional effort to address weapons trafficking.

Third, the United States must increase the sharing of information by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and other entities within the Department of Justice to assist Mexico in the apprehension of criminals and their assets. This cooperation should include mechanisms to ensure that the information provided is being adequately used by Mexican authorities to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for crimes. In tandem, the United States should consider additional funding for Mexico to support judicial reform undertaken at the federal and state levels. Possible support could include funding for revamping law school curriculums and textbooks, exchange programs for judges and lawyers to countries experiencing similar changes, programs to strengthen Mexico’s judicial work in the areas of evidence handling and chain of custody and for equipment and training for expert services (ballistics, criminology), and Victim and Witness Protection and Restitution programs as an essential component for effective criminal investigations.

Finally, the Obama administration should work toward reaching an agreement with its Mexican counterparts to establish an annual binational review panel to assess progress in meeting the objectives of both countries in areas of reducing organized crime violence, strengthening judicial and law enforcement cooperation, and reducing demand for illegal drugs in both countries. The review panel would be made up of state and federal authorities, representatives of national legislatures, as well as academic and civil society experts from both countries. The panel would evaluate progress and make recommendations for enhanced cooperation and further reforms to strengthen institutions and the rule of law.

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