Mexican President Tries To Do Good On Promises, Goes After Judges Bribed by Narco Cartels
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came into office with a slew of promises. Primarily, cleaning up rampant corruption that has plagued the country for years. In a move to restore public trust, Lopez Obrador says he will go after judges aligned with the country’s dangerous drug cartels. It’s been well-documented that various judges in Mexico have either accepted bribes or have worked alongside gangs creating a system of reckless lawlessness from the higher courts.
The move to take down corrupt judges comes after the U.S. took action first against a Mexican judge this past week.
The U.S. placed sanctions on a Mexican judge and a former state governor last Friday due to their involvement in corruption activities. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) accused them of taking bribes from traffickers and claiming corruption had allowed gangs to operate with consequence.
Santiago Nieto, head of the Mexican finance ministry’s financial intelligence unit, told Reuters that the government is looking at other cases of judges that may have taken bribes. He underscores that this is all part of President Lopez Obrador plan to fulfill his campaign promise to clean up corruption.
“I have received instructions from the president of the republic to go after anybody regardless of their position or party loyalty,” Nieto told Reuters. “This is a clear message. The courts are one of the central values, fundamental pillars of the democratic state. That is why if a judge or magistrate betrays that position they must be sanctioned.”
The U.S. sanctions were imposed on Friday with the cooperation of the Mexican government.
Isidro Avelar Gutierrez, the judge indicted, allegedly accepted bribes from two closely linked cartel groups, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organization. Gutierrez reportedly gave favorable rulings to the cartels’ senior members while being prosecuted.
Roberto Sandoval Castaneda, the former governor of Nayarit state, is also suspected of accepting bribes from drug cartels. This includes bribes from the CJNG, as well as misappropriating state assets, according to the U.S. Treasury press release.
The U.S. Treasury Department also says that it had designated six other individuals and six Mexican entities as being linked to CJNG or Los Cuinis.
“We are working in coordination with various institutions of the Mexican state in cases related to corruption in the judicial system,” Nieto said. “The Mexican financial system must not be used by criminal groups to launder money.”
This is just the next step in what seems to be a long battle to end corruption in Mexico.
Since taking office in December 2018, President López Obrador has faced criticism that not enough was being done to end continued corruption. This comes as Mexico faced one of its most violent years on record. There was a 14 percent rise in the homicide rate and a growing number of citizens losing trust in the government as almost 70 percent of Mexicans think that judges were corrupt.
Nieto notes, however, that after taking office he began targeting the finances of the CJNG. He says is the start in preventing organized cartel groups from operating with impunity.
Mexico’s drug war has gone on for over a decade, with thousands of citizens being killed on streets. According to the Wall Street Journal, the drug war has taken approximately 200,000 lives while more than 37,000 people have gone missing since 2006.