One year after Mexico’s new criminal justice system went into effect, National Security Commissioner Renato Sales says it has descended into a “procedural hell” that has led to an increase in crime, and that laws must be changed to fix it.
He also claimed that those responsible for running the system have failed to adequately communicate with each other and that the “absence of a common language” between authorities has contributed to the current mess.
In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, Sales maintained that his comments were not a matter of attributing blame to authorities, legislators and judges but rather aimed at uniting forces to combat the violence and criminality that is plaguing the country.
The system needs “essential adjustments,” the commissioner charged, while also stating that preparation for its introduction was inadequate, particularly highlighting that police were the last to be trained in the new system despite being the first to have to respond to criminal acts.
“Training in the new system was not uniform,” Sales argued.
“It was fragmentary and dispersed and the work was not done jointly and has resulted in a procedural hell. We are facing a problem and we must solve it.”
One adjustment Sales has suggested is introducing automatic preventative custody for people found in possession of firearms.
He attributes — at least partially — a rise in homicide numbers to allowing the release from custody of detainees who were found with guns, including military-style weapons such as Barrett and AK-47 rifles.
However, Sales also pointed to the fragmentation of cartels and in-fighting as a factor that has led to the rise in violent crime, citing internal disputes in the Sinaloa Cartel as an example.
He also mentioned uncertainty arising from changes in state and municipal governments as another factor.
The new justice system stipulates that accused individuals cannot be held in preventative prison for more than two years but Sales questioned why people who have flagrantly violated the law are not promptly charged, insinuating that judges are to blame.
“What more evidence from the prosecutor can the judge need if a person was arrested in possession of that kind of weapon. They say that it infringes on the presumption of innocence. There are no absolute rights . . . these weapons will not be used for hunting rabbits to be mounted on library walls.”
Despite pointing out what he believes to be deficiencies in the current legal framework, the commissioner stressed that he still had the utmost respect for the judiciary despite not always agreeing with its decisions.
‘High-powered rifles won’t be used for hunting rabbits’
In response to the criticism, Supreme Court President Luis María Aguilar said, “It’s not the job or responsibility of the judiciary to improve security conditions in the country because that’s the job of executive authorities.”
Fellow Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossío backed him up, stating that the main failures in the implementation of the system stemmed from police, specialists, prosecutors and Attorney Generals’ offices and that it was a mistake to think the system would improve just by making changes to laws.
Sales remains unconvinced and while he thinks the new system is better than the one it replaced, he says no system is perfect, but the new one could be improved by implementing the changes he proposes.
“It’s clear that somebody who carries those weapons does so to kill. Should we wait for them to kill? Carrying those weapons entails a danger that society must now allow.”
Source: Milenio (sp)