Another independent investigative body released a report yesterday critical of the Mexican justice system. The target this time was the dispensation of “everyday justice,” the kind average citizens and other residents would avail themselves of from time to time, if they only could.
But they seldom do, and for good reason. The system, according to the new report, is slow, complex, costly, removed, hard to understand, exclusive and prone to corruption and abuse. In short, it doesn’t work.
The report comes on the heels of two others released recently by United Nations agencies, one on the prevalence of forced disappearances in Mexico, the other on torture.
This time, however, the Peña Nieto administration didn’t deny the findings or impugn the source’s integrity. In fact, the delivery of the investigation was celebrated at a dress-up ceremony at the National Museum of Anthropology, with speeches and thank yous and lots of congratulations.
All that was missing was a red carpet and running commentary on who was wearing what designed by whom.
The president went so far as to embrace the criticism of the Mexican justice system, commenting, “Everyday justice today is lagging and, it must be recognized, in many cases overtaken and forgotten.”
That’s what inspired La Jornada’s lead head: “Peña: Daily justice at a distance from the majority.” Notice it’s the president quoted, not the report authors. Milenio is the only other paper to lead with the story, though all front it.
Two reasons come to mind for the president’s atypical and welcome embrace. One is that the critical report came not from an international organization but from CIDE, the highly respected Mexican think tank and institution of higher-learning. A defensive, nationalist response was out of the question.
The other is that the shortcomings described in the report are so well-known and undeniable that there’s no other choice but to accept them.
Think about it. Some young dude snatches something valuable of yours. You get a good look at the guy; you’ve even seen him around. Several people you know witnessed the theft. There’s a good chance this guy can be caught and you’ll get your possessions back, if not your cash.
What do you do? Where do you go? What happens when you get there? What happens when you leave there? What are the chances the Minsterio Público wants to even think about a petty theft, let alone do something about it? And even if somebody wants to do something, can he?
These are the kinds of questions that most Mexicans don’t even bother to ask any more. Peña Nieto know this, and appeared sincere in vowing to improve things. If nothing else, he recognizes a winner of an issue when he sees one.
CIDE provides plenty of suggested steps, they can happen incrementally, any improvement would be noticed and appreciated, and it’s hard to imagine much credible opposition to such a project. There will be the usual skepticism and mistrust, of course — that is, the unshakeable conviction that nothing can ever get better. But that conviction is a cop-out, the cozy refuge of losers.