Its timing probably had little to do with Mexican Independence Day, but nevertheless it was announced on Thursday that 2,685 people who had been held in penitentiaries around the country have been granted their freedom and independence under the nation’s Amnesty and Early Release Law.
Some of them had been waiting for years to be tried, and others had experienced violations of their rights of due process.
The announcement came during President López Obrador’s daily press conference, with Minister of Public Security and Citizen Protection Rosa Icela Rodríguez providing the details.
“We say that, with actions like these, we advance in the formation of a more humanitarian, equal and fair society,” she said. “And as Martin Luther King said: ‘[True] peace is not simply the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.’”
The figures provided to the media indicated that those receiving early release included 123 women, 120 older adults, 208 people with chronic-degenerative diseases, 51 Indigenous people and 15 foreigners — plus another 2,032 people “who met the requirements for early release” (such as having a work plan, not having any other charges or warrants, or not being repeat offenders).
An additional 136 people were released through the amnesty portion of the law: “66 of them in poverty, 42 women, 21 Indigenous, two with permanent disabilities, four victims of intimidation and one victim of discrimination,” Rodríguez said.
Mexico’s law covering amnesty and early release went into effect in April 2020 under the direction of López Obrador, who has pushed a strategy against crime that attacks the roots of the problem, such as poverty, corruption and impunity (though his critics consider that measures such as amnesty for prisoners are an attempt to gain electoral support).
“It is, as you have said, Mr. President, an act of justice for those who have not committed serious crimes, or crimes related to violence, humble people who could not afford a lawyer, have a translator or have faced all kinds of adversities,” said Rodríguez, a former journalist and close ally of AMLO — and the country’s first female security minister, the person in charge of coordinating the fight against drug cartels and other criminals.
According to Rodríguez, 92,590 people around the country are in pre-trial detention, which has been a hot topic in recent weeks. AMLO has been a vocal proponent of the use of mandatory pre-trial detention, which policy analyst critics fault for the rising numbers of incarcerated people awaiting trial in Mexico.
In August, Supreme Court Justice Luis María Aguilar Morales proposed eliminating mandatory pre-trial detention from the Constitution, in favor of letting individual judges make that decision. But with the Supreme Court poised to vote on the issue, some judges went public with their intention of voting against Aguilar’s idea, so last week he withdrew the proposal.
A day after the announcement about the prisoner release, Rodríguez helped open Friday’s Independence Day military parade in Mexico City by giving a speech at the capital’s zócalo. “Mexico is not destined for war. It is destined for peace,” she exclaimed.