Mexico Recasts Its Criminal Justice Process

5/31/16 Wall Street Journal

justice - gavel and bookACAPULCO, Mexico—On a recent day, hundreds of construction workers laid bricks in a fevered rush to finish a new courthouse in this violence-torn city. Their work was just part of Mexico’s broad and daunting effort to build a new criminal justice system.

Starting Wednesday, every criminal case in Acapulco will be heard using a new judicial process based on U.S.-style oral trials. It replaces a centuries-old inquisitorial system that effectively presumes defendants are guilty and hands down sentences on the basis of written evidence reviewed behind closed doors.

Within two weeks of its rollout here, the new system is supposed to operate across the entire country.

“This is the biggest change in Mexico’s judicial system in recent history—a cultural change without precedent,” said María de los Ángeles Fromow, the Interior Ministry official who has led the implementation of the new system across the country.

Supporters say the changes will create a more transparent and accountable system where defense lawyers and prosecutors confront each other in public before a judge or panel of judges.
Critics say parts of the country aren’t ready for the changes and criminals could avoid punishment in the short term, especially in places like this Pacific coastal city widely considered Mexico’s murder capital.

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State Department Prohibits U.S. Diplomats From Traveling To Acapulco Due To Increased Violence

4/19/16 Forbes

Acapulco LA QUEBRADA

The U.S. Department of State toughened its travel alert for Acapulco, a port in the Mexican Pacific coast state of Guerrero which the agency said has been Mexico’s most violent city for the past three years.

The new warning, which was issued Friday and replaces the one from January 19, 2016, prohibits U.S. Government personnel from traveling to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, a major tourist destination.

The only exception to the new travel rule for Guerrero is Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, a tourist resort 152 miles northwest of Acapulco, where American diplomats nevertheless are advised to exercise caution and remain in tourist areas.

While the  travel warning for parts of Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest states, has been in effect for several years, this is the first time Acapulco—not long ago a favorite destination for celebrities, foreign leaders and American honeymooners–has been included in the ban.

In a statement Friday, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged the legal requirements of the U.S. and other countries to issue travel warnings.  In 2015, a total of 20 million Americans visited Mexico via all forms of transport, of this  8.4 million American tourists traveled to Mexico by plane, a 17% increase over 2014, the Foreign Ministry said.

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10 Bodies Found in Mass Graves in Guerrero, Mexico

6/23/15 teleSur

Postville raidThe corpses of seven men and three women were exhumed from clandestine graves on the outskirts of Acapulco in Mexico, Guerrero state Chief Prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez announced Monday. The bodies were discovered late Sunday, after the police received an anonymous tip. The state of Guerrero has been the site of many forced disappearances in Mexico, most famously the case of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college, who were disappeared in September, 2014, after they were detained by police and allegedly handed over to an organized crime gang.

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Thousands march in Acapulco over feared Mexican student massacre

10/17/14 Reuters

hands - fistThousands marched in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco on Friday to demand answers about the fate of 43 missing trainee teachers, who authorities fear were massacred by police in league with gang members. The students went missing in the southwestern state of Guerrero on Sept. 26 after clashing with police and masked men, with dozens of police being arrested in connection with a case that has sent shockwaves across Mexico.

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General Secretary of PAN Party Assassinated in Guerrero State, Mexico

09/28/14 TELESUR

panOn Sunday, a group of unknown people murdered Braulio Zaragoza Maganda, the general secretary of National Action Party, one of the three main political parties in Mexico. Zaragoza was in a restaurant in a hotel of Acapulco when three gunshots killed him at around 8.30 a.m., informed the Public Ministry, quoted by Mexican press agency Notimex. The general attorney will investigate the murder, added the statement. The national president of PAN, Gustavo Madero, also requested a deep investigation. “The atmosphere of insecurity and impunity experienced in Mexico” can not be tolerated, he stated.

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Mexico earthquake shakes Acapulco, surrounding area

acapulcoThe Christian Science Monitor, 4/18/14

A powerful earthquake shook Mexico on Friday, damaging more than 100 homes in the southwestern state of Guerrero and opening cracks in some buildings but there were no reports of deaths. Striking close to the popular beach resort of Acapulco, the 7.2 magnitude quake sent people scurrying out of homes and hotels, causing brief panic from the Pacific coast to states in central and eastern parts of Mexico.

At least 127, mostly adobe homes were damaged in Guerrero. In the state capital Chilpancingo, a tower of the cathedral suffered cracks along with a few other public buildings, a spokesman for local emergency services said. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake’s epicenter was about 37 km (23 miles) north of the municipality of Tecpan de Galeana in Guerrero, and it struck at the relatively shallow depth of about 24 km (15 miles). Lasting more than a minute, the quake was felt as far away as the states Puebla and Tlaxcala in central eastern Mexico.

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Drug War Continues But Most Of Mexico Is Safe For Travel And Business, Experts Say

Tourists still heading to Tulum and other destinations in Mexico

Fox News Latino, 11/25/2013

Tucked into a protected bay on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Acapulco has in recent years become the poster child for how the country’s vicious drug war has turned a once idyllic tourist destination into a killing field.

Headless bodies, gang rapes of tourists and hours-long shootouts have driven even the hardiest of visitors away from the city’s famed beaches and high-rise hotels. Foreign visitors flying in have decreased from over 350,000 in 2006 to fewer than 61,000 in 2012 and the once popular spring break destination saw the number of U.S. college students visiting drop by 92 percent in the last three years.

While Acapulco – and border cities like Ciudad Juárez and Reynosa – have dominated the headlines for the gruesome drug violence, much of Mexico’s 761,606 square miles remain relatively safe for both tourists and business interests. Analysts and travel experts tend to agree that Mexico is both as dangerous and as safe as it ever has been; it just depends on where one travels.

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