Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Whose corruption is it?

National and local politicians are blaming each other for the problem of corruption in Mexico.

Inmate massacre highlights Mexico jail corruption
Nine guards have confessed to helping Zetas drug gangsters escape from prison before other Zetas slaughtered 44 rival inmates, a state official said late Monday, underlining the enormous corruption inside Mexico's overcrowded, underfunded prisons…

The massacre in this northern state was one of the worst prison killings in Mexico in at least a quarter-century and exposed another weak institution that President Felipe Calderon is relying on to fight his drug war…

An increase in organized crime, extortion, drug trafficking and kidnapping has swelled Mexico's prison population almost 50 percent since 2000. But the government has built no new federal prisons since Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels when he took office in late 2006, leaving existing jails overcrowded…

Of the 47,000 federal inmates in the country, about 29,000 are held in state prisons. That has drawn complaints from Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina and other state governors, who say their jails aren't equipped to hold members of powerful and highly organized drug cartels.

The federal government counters that none of the escapes or mass killings have occurred at federal lockups, and it cites corruption on the state level, not overcrowding, as the main cause of the deaths and escapes…

Prison employees say guards are underpaid, making them more likely to take bribes. And even honest guards are vulnerable to coercion: Many live in neighborhoods where street gangs and drug cartels are active, making it easy to target their families with threats.

The same can be said for Mexico's municipal police forces, another weak flank in Calderon's attack on organized crime. Thousands of local officers - often, entire forces at a time - have been fired, detained or placed under investigation for aiding drug gangs…

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