By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
CIUDAD DE MEXICO, Mexico — On Monday, October 16, Mexico’s Attorney General Raúl Cervantes announced his resignation before members of the Senate, stating that he wanted to facilitate the transition to a new institutional framework to combat crime and abandon impunity.
Mr. Cervantes is the third Attorney General appointed within the last five years and was appointed Attorney General on October 25, 2016.
In 2014, Congress approved a constitutional reform—to be enacted at the latest in 2018—that would replace the office of the Attorney General with an independent chief prosecutor who would be appointed to a nine-year term. This extended tenure is designed to distance the prosecutor from the president, who serves a single six-year term. According to El País, Mr. Cervantes would have assumed the position of chief prosecutor automatically.
Mr. Cervantes’ appointment as Attorney General caused widespread consternation since he has close ties to the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and is a member of the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). Many opposition politicians and non-governmental groups have expressed a lack of faith in Cervantes’ willingness to investigate the Peña Nieto and his administration after the 2018 elections, which is why the new office of the chief prosecutor has not yet been established.
During his tenure, the Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC) reported a significant increase in violent homicides in Mexico since the beginning of 2017 to August, with a steady monthly average of 2,300 homicides reported per month. According to Huffpost, this means that “every 18 minutes and 47 seconds, a victim of violent homicide was reported in the first eight months of 2017 on a national level.”
One of the major controversies Mr. Cervantes and his predecessors faced was the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping, where 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared and were allegedly delivered to a local criminal syndicate for execution. The official account given by Mexican authorities has been marred by inconsistent testimony, accusations of obstruction of justice by various state officials, and has resulted in the arrest of over 100 individuals. Mr. Cervantes and his predecessors’ failure to advance the investigation of the Iguala mass kidnapping has arguably been the proverbial “final nail in the coffin” in their tenures as Attorney General.
President Peña Nieto announced that the next Attorney General would be appointed after the 2018 presidential elections since the position cannot be taken short term and appointing anyone else would further complicate the process of naming the new chief prosecutor.
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