Opposition Mexican presidential candidate proposes justice reform similar to president’s
MEXICO CITY – Opposition presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, who blames President Vicente Fox for failing to resolve the nation’s crime problem, on Sunday proposed a sweeping justice reform that echoes some of the measures the outgoing chief executive suggested nearly two years ago.Remarking that Mexico “can no longer continue being a hostage of drug trafficking and crime,” Madrazo said the country was in need of a profound reform that would include the creation of a national police force, taking away exclusive investigating powers from the Attorney General’s office, and overhauling the corrupt and dangerous penitentiary system.In 2004, Fox proposed a similar reform that has since been stalled in the Mexican Congress, which is dominated by Madrazo’s party.Among other things, Madrazo’s proposal suggests creating a national police force that would “coordinate the tasks” of law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels, “with the goal of avoiding duplication,” according to a news release issued by the campaign of the candidate, who hails from the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.The proposal also would break up “the monopoly that the Attorney General’s Office has over investigations,” and completely reform the nation’s prison system, “to avoid mixing highly dangerous criminals with those who have been detained for or convicted of minor offenses.”Madrazo presented his proposal in the city of Ciudad Victoria, located in the northern state of Tamaulipas, which suffers from high levels of violent crime.The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years until Fox’s election in 2000. Fox belongs to the conservative National Action Party, or PAN.A central theme of Fox’s proposal, which the president unveiled in March 2004, was to strip the federal Attorney General’s office of all police investigative powers.Under Mexico’s current system, prosecutors investigate cases, interview witnesses, gather – and weigh – evidence, and essentially reach a verdict, passing on the findings in bulky files that judges must review. Often, the proceedings are closed to the public and results can be kept secret, providing fertile ground for corruption.The president’s proposal also suggested reorganizing national police forces; initiating oral public trials to replace unwieldy and time-consuming written judgments; and clearly delineating the presumption of innocence in the constitution. Separately, he has taken steps to crack down on high rates of crime and corruption in the penitentiary system.Because Fox’s proposal dealt with crime – one of the biggest concerns among Mexican citizens – the president had hoped it would have a better chance of passage than his earlier failed electric, labor and tax reforms. But the measure, like others before it, has become stalled in Congress, where the PRI has a plurality.Madrazo has accused Fox of failing to adequately stem the nation’s skyrocketing crime rates, which are fueled in large part by widespread drug trafficking and kidnapping.Also competing for the presidency in the July 2 election are PAN candidate Felipe Calderon and leftist Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.