Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Weighing Calderon's Guilt in Mexico Drug War

Friday, February 10, 2012 |

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, along with top administration officials and Sinaloa Cartel leader 'Chapo' Guzman, have been accused of crimes against humanity in the Hague’s International Criminal Court (ICC), raising questions about the application of international humanitarian law to the “drug war.”


Written by Geoffrey Ramsey
In Sight Crime

The official complaint was filed in the ICC on November 25 by an enterprising team of legal scholars, activists, and journalists, and was supported by a petition bearing more than 20,000 signatures. According to human rights lawyer Netzai Sandoval, who is spearheading the case, the appeal to international law rather than Mexico’s courts was necessary because the Mexican judicial system lacks the “will and ability… to judge crimes against humanity.”

When the complaint was filed at the International Criminal Court, it garnered significant media attention in the US, and was been followed by analysts and pundits discussing the merits of the case. Last month Excelsior op-ed contributor Ricardo Aleman endorsed the charges against Calderon, predicting that “upon leaving office, he will become the most persecuted of Mexican presidents."

The Inter-American Dialogue’s Michael Shifter also recently told McClatchy that the charges could pose a threat to Calderon’s legacy once he left the presidency. "People like Calderon are a lot more nervous than they used to be. There's a lot more scrutiny. You have the trend toward global justice, and you never know what's going to happen once you leave office," Shifter said.

Meanwhile, however, Calderon appears to be nonplussed by the ICC charges. His administration has played them down as irrelevant, with Labor Secretary Javier Lozano calling them “irrelevant.” Last week while speaking at a luncheon in Guadalajara, the president was interrupted by a youth who stood up and heckled the leader about his controversial security strategy, asking "Where will you live when your term is finished?" Calderon took the heckling in stride, quickly responding “here in Guadalajara, mi estimado.”

There is no question that Mexico’s judicial system is highly defective. Corruption in the country’s police force is common, which in turn reduces public faith in authorities and ensures that only a fraction of crimes are ever reported. When they are reported, there is no guarantee that they will be prosecuted effectively. According to a 2010 study by the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), only 15 percent of reported crimes are investigated, and only 1.75 percent of all criminal suspects are ever convicted. This impunity persists in spite of a judicial reform package passed in 2008, which has progressed slowly and has not been uniformly enacted across Mexico’s states.

Access to justice is especially limited when it comes to military abuses. Although a July 2011 ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court called for allegations of human rights abuses against members of the army to be investigated in civilian courts, the ruling was non-binding and did not set a legal precedent. The vast majority of such cases are investigated internally in military courts, which critics claim lack impartiality.

This impunity is especially alarming given the high incidence of human rights abuses committed by police and the military. A recent Human Rights Watch analysis of Mexico’s five most violent states documented 170 cases of torture, 39 disappearances, and 24 extrajudicial killings committed by security forces since Calderon took office in December 2006. The ICC complaint itself goes even further. It is over 700 pages long, and specifically faults Calderon, the leaders of the country’s various security forces, and Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for some 470 human rights violations committed over the past several years.

Still, at least for the moment the president’s cool attitude towards his accusers seems to be justified. While it may be true that human rights activists in Mexico are confronted with a high degree of impunity in their own country, it is unclear whether they classify as crimes against humanity and war crimes. The 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Mexico has signed and ratified, mandates that in order for someone to be successfully tried on these charges, the crimes must be widespread and systematic, and there must be significant evidence linking them to the crimes.

Thus, even if the Court accepts that human rights abuses committed against Calderon constitute war crimes, Sandoval’s team must prove that the president tolerates or condones them. Considering that the Calderon administration has portrayed itself as doing the best it can to safeguard human rights while going after drug traffickers, and has even made attempts at reducing the military’s control over investigations into abuses, this will be a tall order.

The charges against Guzman are equally problematic, even putting aside the fact that law enforcement agents have been unable to locate the kingpin. While Guzman has doubtlessly ordered atrocious acts of violence to be committed against civilians firsthand, the application of international humanitarian law to such acts is controversial. For one thing, the charges operates under the assumption that Calderon’s “drug war” can be classified as an internal conflict between two armed groups. While Mexican security forces are certainly subject to the laws of war, Mexico’s drug cartels are not as well organized, do not follow a consistent command structure, and do not significantly distinguish themselves from the civilian population.

Even if the case is accepted in the Court it will take years to progress, and Calderon likely will not be troubled by it anytime soon. However, the case is about more than the prosecution of individuals. National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) legal professor John Ackerman, who is a supporter of the case, told InSight Crime that its aim is more systemic than personal, and geared at changing the culture of impunity in the country. “What we’re going for is an institutional transformation, it’s not a personal thing against Felipe Calderon or Joaquin Guzman,” said Ackerman.

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19 Borderland Beat Comments:

ARRIVA TAMAULIPAZZZ said...

I've been saying it for a couple of years now,Calderon you corrupted spick the whole world will find out once your presidency is done of your corruption and alliance with El chapo. Little by little I will see the demise of Calderon and chapo Guzman.many years others cartels have been blame for everything except chaputa.pronto caen pinches sapos ipocritas

Anonymous said...

Is funny I don't remember anyone making to much fuss about U.S. invaded Iraq against international law, killing almost 1 million people in the process.
President Bush and his cabinet are not facing any criminal charges for their crimes against humanity and according to many the U.S. is the most humane and law abiding people in the world.

In Brasil we call the U.S. people hypocrites because they usually shit on the laws when is them the ones who commit the crimes.

Anonymous said...

Shut the fuck up if you dont know its not calderon fault. He tried to do something good but if it wasnt for the zetas rattz he would of had everything under control. You and everybody knows that when there werent any zetas mexico was a great place. Remember nuevo laredo was a bad ass place to party when miguel trevino was washing cars for the tejas now he wants to own mexico when before he didnt even own a car

Anonymous said...

Fucking people always trying to blame Calderon for trying to save the country. The Bush war killed almost a million people in Iraq, where is your bleeding heart for those innocent people? International law didn't do anything to Bush for all the atrocities committed by the U.S. military in Iraq, why?

Anonymous said...

this comment goes to the mature,unbiased people out there, who would rather make intelligent comments than kid like insults! There is plenty of proof that pan was involved in cds protection! There is plenty of proof that el chapo was let out thru a big bribe to los pinos! There is proof that one of mexicos richest man is involved in money laundering! There is proof dat cds cooperated with dea to bust rivals! There is proof dat cds kills innocent people and ignited this bloodshed in wat we call mexico!!! Is calderon gonna live in mexico after presidency?hell no, rival cartels know thru their own political contacts the arrangements that were made!! Mexican people need to make a stand and demand justice,demand a better economy,demand,demand demand and dnt back down!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The US killed 1 million in Iraq - it's a shame that Calderon hasn't killed 1 million cartel bastards in Mexico! Kill them, kill thief families, kill their fucking dogs! I want to see wholesale slaughter - when I see the Mexican air force bombing Nuevo Laredo, then I'll think Calderon is serious.

Anonymous said...

Nada cambio calderon enpioro las cosas antes saliamos asta la madrugada sin nada que temer aora estamos pa la chingada los gringos aplauden y aplauden porque no viven aqua y toda via nos critican porque queremos al pri de regreso yo voy a votar quien se me de la pinche gana ustedes no estan en nuestros zapatos asi que preocupense por su pedo de ustedes aorita si ay mexicanos pobresitos pero ay los veran quemando la banndera diciendo vallense illegales vallense

Anonymous said...

I always wonderd if mexico had an air force....
Sure seems like calderon is doing more than the previous 20 presidents.
let us use our blackhawks, well do some damage :)

Anonymous said...

February 10, 2012 5:05 PM I'm sorry but your comment was not real mature and the plenty of proof that you talk about doesn't show the connection of the PAN or president Felipe Calderon whit organized crime. We all know the president has attack organized crime and corruption and we all know the military has killed many criminals and arrested capos from all the cartels. Que viva Felipe Calderon.

Anonymous said...

Human rights? Human rights laws are a joke, scum don't deserve human rights, only the innocent ppl deserve human rights, & anyone involved with drugs & with any cartel be it CDS, CDG, ZETAS, etc don't deserve human rights. The ones who need their human rights protecting never get the backing I'm sick of scum in Europe getting away with their human rights being breached and everything being too PC! Calderon maybe in bed with Chapo I don't know but he's the only Mexican president for a while with balls taking it to the "non Mexicans AKA the narcos" & he'll have to leave Mexico after his term finishes where's the justice in that...Peace ppl

Anonymous said...

Calderon you should send all your complete soldiers to all mexico and make tranfers every 15 days

Anonymous said...

My dear paisano,when u do the math and realize dat cds has had the least number of people incarcerated and prosecuted,then ull be able to see da stats dnt lie,also theres been a good number of authors who have come forward with da truth and been run out of the country or executed!!listen i suggest u read a book by anabelle hernandez called los senores del narco,also its very true calderon has captured quite a bit of narcos but da vast majority of them have been cds rivals, therefore benefiting cds!! My friend im a natural born mexican with family members who have served in mexicos law enforcement and believe me theyve all resigned and got new careers,so i kinda know wat im talkin about!!! Saludos paisano

Anonymous said...

@ Feb/10/2012 2:45pm. You are so proud of being a Tamaulipeco? you do not even know how to write:"Arriba Tamaulipas". We the people of Mexico pray that president Calderon finish the job he started, and every single dto in Mexico is exterminated before he leaves Office. Do you really think that 40, or el Chapo or any of those low life sob's are better that Calderon? Or do you think that your master el 40 is better than el Chapo? We trust with our life the mexican military, and yes Mexico has an Air Force, they have combat, fighter/attack planes and everything from c-130, c-141 and c17 transport/bomber planes and attack helicopters, uh-1, Snakes(cobras) and apaches, some of them bought from the USA other given by the USA. And let me tell you dto cheerleaders: Mexico and the Mexican people will prevail and your drug cartels will be exterminated.

Anonymous said...

February 10, 2012 8:26 PM Well said my friend. Tamaulipeco ya ni yo que ni educación tuve, definitivamente escribes como delincuente.

Anonymous said...

Pues que yo recuerde de cuando fui a la escuela primaria en Mexico el gentilicio para un ciudadano de Tamaulipas es: Tamaulipeco.

Anonymous said...

For all those that can't read a book, read articles, listen to the citizens, international courts and the state officials, that Calderon and Chapo are partners, I will see if I can hire an artist to draw y'all some pictures so you will finally have your proof.

Anonymous said...

Is the U.S. DEA listen in that complaint? It should be. I say that as an American.

Anonymous said...

I guess he could have left Mexico as an Autocracy instead of the Democracy it is becoming. All democracies are born in violence. This will pass and Mexico will be greater than it ever was. Thanks to Calderon's nuts.

Anonymous said...

@February 10, 2012 8:26 PM .Well said hermano.You are intelligent enough to know,that the US people are on your side,and we do not want to see hard working Mexicans go through this horror.It is not about some imaginary conspiracies and hatreds that serve no purpose,the purpose is to help the Mexican people try to live a safe life.I saw a heartbreaking video of a little girl and her brave schoolteacher trying to keep her calm.To see her little face was truly heartrending.And my friend it is to you and people like you,who help to make a change,instead of playing the blame game.The whole point is what to do,so that little girl can go to school without fear of being shot by a stray bullet.Saludos my friend.

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