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How a U.S.-backed effort to fix Mexico’s justice system led to turmoil
#1
OCOTLAN, MEXICO — One morning in this grim farming town, a Mexican judge who carries a rubber-bullet gun for protection strode into his courtroom to consider the matter of the 11-inch knife.

Slumped at the defendant’s table was David Ramos, a day laborer charged with attempted homicide for participating in a drunken knife fight. Ramos had already spent 16 days in jail. But Judge Juan Antonio Rubio Gutiérrez had discovered a glaring irregularity.

In the initial paperwork, no one mentioned where police found the plastic-handled blade. When the point had been raised, the missing information suddenly appeared in a new shade of blue ink. Rubio Gutiérrez decided that the information was dubious and that the defendant could walk.

“Procedurally speaking, a knife no longer exists,” the judge told Ramos in the courtroom earlier this month. “Today, you have recovered your freedom.”

The scene playing out in this new one-room courthouse represents a radical departure from the old Mexican traditions of law and order.

Mexico is completing its first full year of a new accusatory justice system, following the most profound overhaul of its legal structure in a century. The most visible sign of the transformation is public trials instead of a secretive process involving written arguments. But the changes go far deeper. Both Mexican and U.S. officials have described the system as crucial to restoring order to a country torn apart by drug violence.

So far, the results have been chaos.

Bickering and confusion reign at each link in the legal chain. Police complain of hours lost on laborious forms; prosecutors blame judges for setting criminals free; judges accuse poorly trained police of botching crime scenes. Powerful drug cartels, meanwhile, are exploiting the weaknesses in the new system and strong-arming authorities with death threats and bribes.

The upheaval has come during the deadliest year in Mexico’s modern history. Politicians here increasingly blame the judicial changes for emptying jails and fanning crime. Even those who embrace the new legal system worry about its first-year fiascos.

“The reform is going badly,” José Ramón Cossío, a justice on Mexico’s Supreme Court, said in an interview. “There are many small problems that, taken together, are causing what I believe to be an important crisis.”

It is hard to overstate the significance of the restructuring. It seeks to turn the notoriously ineffective police into professional investigators. It strengthens the independence of judges. It provides more rights to defendants in a country where authorities have been known to demand bribes, extract confessions under torture and doctor evidence.

The U.S. government is deeply invested in the project, contributing more than $300 million since 2008 to equip courthouses and train police and legal personnel.

Even in rural outposts such as Ocotlan, the system has ushered in many trappings of high-tech justice: courthouses with surveillance cameras and fingerprint sensors; forensic investigators at crime scenes in latex gloves and protective footwear.

But the exacting new procedures have been grafted onto feeble, corruption-plagued institutions created decades ago by an authoritarian state.

Judges are demanding the kind of legal precision found in Washington or London, from police who sometimes can barely read and live in places that can feel like war zones.

“This is a baby that has just been born,” Rubio Gutiérrez said in an interview. “We are asking the system to run, and it is not possible.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/...2dbc602a70
Más vale pocos pelos, pero bien peinados.
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#2
"Judges are demanding the kind of legal precision found in Washington or London, from police who sometimes can barely read and live in places that can feel like war zones."
BajaNoMas= News, Facts, Stats, Videos, Pics and Links- because presenting the truth to the public is not a negative campaign "Decir la verdad no es ninguna campaña negra".
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