“MX” for Borderland Beat
|Head of the navy says judges often appear to be on the side of the criminals|
At Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s (AMLO) morning press conference, a Mexican Navy chief Jose Rafael Ojeda took aim at the country’s judges, declaring that he sees them as “enemies” of the state in many organized crime cases.
Navy chief explained that Mexican lawmakers are working on a legal reform that would place a greater number of chemicals on a banned list to help reduce the proliferation of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl. He said that the reform has to be closely looked at so that judges do not free criminals with legal loopholes.
“We don’t have much help from judges and [state] Attorney General’s offices [in organized crime cases], we have to close the circle well because if we don’t [the criminals] get away from us,” Ojeda said, underscoring the need to draw up a strong reform and present comprehensive and compelling evidence in cases against drug traffickers.
He said that there are “many cases” where judges act in a way that appears to favor drug cartels.
“It seems that we have an enemy in the judicial power; we have to close the circle well in order to carry out arrests,” and keep criminals in prison, Ojeda said.
Last month, AMLO said that Supreme Court judges who did not support a law that extended the term of the court’s chief justice by an additional two years were “accomplices of corruption”. Per the Mexican Constitution, the term is limited to four years but AMLO wants another two.
In March, AMLO complained that judges handed him unfavorable rulings against the Electricity Industry Law, which favors the state-owned Federal Electricity Commision (CFE) over private providers. He argued that the judges should be investigated for corruption.
AMLO also threatened to name and shame judges who “regularly” free drug cartel suspects. It is worth mentioning that judges in Mexico often free criminals due to irregularities in how they were arrested or for violations in due process.
The President’s and Navy chief’s comments were slammed by the Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco, who said the declarations were “very dangerous”.
“[The declaration that the government has enemies among the nation’s judges is a symbol of the militarization of Mexico and the degradation of the rule of law under the presidency of López Obrador”, Vivanco wrote on Twitter.
He then went on to claim that the Navy chief’s statement was “outrageous”.
“The head of Mexico’s navy says (while standing next to President López Obrador at a press conference) that judges are the ‘enemy.’ This should be a wake-up call. The rule of law is under attack in Mexico,” he wrote.
Chief Justice Zaldívar also took to Twitter after Ojeda’s appearance at the press conference. “The role of judges is to defend human rights and the constitution,” he wrote without referring specifically to the navy chief’s remarks. “We will continue guaranteeing their autonomy. An independent judicial power is essential in a democracy.”
For its part, the National Association of Federal Judicial Power Circuit Magistrates and District Judges issued a statement asserting that federal judges “are neither the friends nor enemies of anyone.”
Rather, the statement added, “they only obey the constitution and act in defense of people’s human rights.”
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