Unraveling of drug prosecution in Michoacan reveals flaws in Mexico's judicial system
By Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson
Los Angeles Times
When 35 mayors, prosecutors, police chiefs and other officials in the state of Michoacan were hauled into jail and accused of taking bribes from a cartel last year, it looked as if the federal government was finally attacking the political collusion that has long nurtured the drug gangs.
But instead of heralding a bold new front in Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 4-year-old drug war, the case has turned out to be an embarrassing example of how that offensive is failing.
More than a year later, the prosecution is in ruins.
Judges ruled that the evidence was too flimsy, and all but one of the suspects has been freed. Many have returned to their old jobs, accusing the government of a politically motivated witch hunt during an election season.
The high-profile collapse underscores fundamental defects in the Mexican criminal justice system, including the country's ministerios publicos, a combination detective and prosecutor.
"This is the weak link of the Mexican criminal justice system," said John Mill Ackerman, a law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and editor in chief of the Mexican Law Review.