Seeking to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship.
09/22/16 The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Washington, DC—Two years after 43 students were disappeared by police officers in collusion with a criminal group in Mexico, there have been no convictions, progress in the investigation has stalled, and compelling evidence points to an obstruction of justice in the case.
“This is one of the worst cases of human rights violations seen in Mexico’s recent history. Two years later, the Mexican government has done very little to help these wounds heal. It is shocking that, despite dedicating significant resources, the Mexican government has not found the students, and that its own officials have obstructed the investigation,” said Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for Mexico at WOLA.
Mexico is currently in the process of implementing historic changes to its criminal justice system, but the planned reforms include due process exceptions in organized crime cases that could undermine the initiative’s intent.
The exceptions, outlined in a new report (pdf) from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), provide for the use of a controversial measure known as “arraigo,” which means “hold” and is a form of pretrial that allows suspects in organized crime cases to be held without formal charges for up to 80 days.
In September 2014, 43 students from the Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa were forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero in southern Mexico. In the aftermath of this event, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Mexican government, and the representatives of the victims’ families created an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its initials in Spanish) to provide technical assistance and follow-up measures to the Mexican government in the investigation. The GIEI presented its final report on April 24, 2016.
Please join the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) for a conversation with four of the experts of the GIEI to discuss the main findings of their investigation, what their work demonstrated about Mexico’s criminal justice system, and how the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students can move forward after their departure from Mexico. The Experts will be joined by a legal representative of the students’ families.
Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts
Carlos Martín Beristain (Spain)
Angela Buitrago (Colombia)
Francisco Cox Vial (Chile)
Claudia Paz y Paz (Guatemala)
Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center
Eric L. Olson
Associate Director, Latin American Program,
Senior Advisor, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center
In his electoral campaign and after being elected to office on July 2, 2012, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto promised a new direction for Mexico. Seven months into his presidency, how much has Mexico changed its course? In this Q & A, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America Maureen Meyer addresses key questions about security, drug-related violence, human rights, and security cooperation with the United States.
Since taking office in December 2012, Peña Nieto has emphasized that his priorities are to reduce crime and violence in Mexico, focusing particularly on murder, kidnappings, and extortion. Coupled with this, Peña Nieto promised to focus attention on the root causes of violence. This was clearly laid out in the February launch of the National Program for the Social Prevention of Violence and Crime (Programa Nacional para la Prevención Social de la Violencia y la Delincuencia).
The Washington Office on Latin America and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute are pleased to invite you to a discussion on the current state of police reform in Mexico, issues that the Peña Nieto government must address to create strong and accountable federal security forces, and ways the United States might support these efforts.
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 12 // 9am to 10:30am // at the Woodrow Wilson Center
Since 2011, WOLA staff have carried out research in six different zones of the U.S.-Mexican border, meeting with U.S. law enforcement officials, human rights and humanitarian groups, and journalists, as well as with Mexican officials and representatives of civil society and migrant shelters in Mexico. As part of this ongoing work, the authors spent the week of November 26-30, 2012 in south Texas, looking at security and migration trends along this section of the U.S.-Mexico border. Specifically, we visited Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico.
We found that unlike other sections of the border, the south Texas sections have seen an increase, not a decrease, in apprehensions, particularly of non-Mexican migrants; migrant deaths have dramatically increased; and there are fewer accusations of Border Patrol abuse of migrants. We also found that the Zetas criminal organization’s control over the area may be slipping and drug trafficking appears to have increased, yet these U.S. border towns are safer than they have been in decades. Lastly, in spite of the ongoing violence on the Mexican side of the border and the failure of the Mexican government to reform local and state police forces, U.S. authorities are increasingly repatriating Mexicans through this region, often making migrants easy prey for the criminal groups that operate in these border cities.
If you only listen to campaign debates, congressional hearings, and popular media, you may think that the U.S.-Mexico border is a “war zone,” where a neglectful federal government is letting migrants stream across the border while leaving U.S. citizens at the mercy of thugs. Too often, completely unsubstantiated, politicized claims are treated as facts. This polarizing debate fuels calls for massive increases in security spending and more force—even military deployments—along the border.
WOLA has dedicated some of our top experts to study what is really happening in the borderlands. Our border security project interviews Border Patrol, military and other law enforcement personnel, partner organizations, and local experts to assess the true security situation and the real impact of our current border security policies on migrants.
To make WOLA’s border research readily accessible—and respond more quickly to false or misleading claims—today WOLA is launching a new blog: Border Fact Check: Separating Rhetoric from Reality.