Latin America

Mexican president comes under fire over pick for Supreme Court justice

Former attorney general’s record as investigator is being questioned

Eduardo Medina Mora has been appointed to Mexico's Supreme Court.
Eduardo Medina Mora has been appointed to Mexico's Supreme Court.

Mexico’s Senate has appointed to the nation’s Supreme Court a controversial former attorney general and ex-diplomat, whose record as an investigator is being questioned by rights groups and feminist organizations.

Eduardo Medina Mora served as Mexico’s chief prosecutor from 2006 to 2009 under the conservative government of President Felipe Calderón. His 15-year term on the top court’s bench was cleared after the Senate ratified his nomination on Monday.

Medina Mora is considered a close friend of current President Enrique Peña Nieto, who nominated him despite conflict-of-interest questions raised during the appointment process.

Up until Tuesday, Medina Mora was Mexico’s ambassador in Washington. Besides serving as attorney general, he also held various other security posts during Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) administration.

Peña Nieto nominated him despite conflict-of-interest questions raised during the appointment process

Lawmakers from Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) backed Medina Mora’s nomination with the support of Mexico’s Green and New Alliance parties in Congress.

The leftwing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) demanded that Congress cancel the vote on his appointment after it accused the “judiciary committee of breaking parliamentary rules.”

The controversy over Medina Mora’s nomination represents another example of the complaints by Mexicans that the political sector is not listening to their growing concerns about the government’s credibility. Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have dropped following the massacre of 22 suspected drug traffickers in Tlatlaya and the killings of 43 students in Iguala last year.

“The political class is appointing a man to the bench who symbolizes arbitrariness, incompetence and rights abuses,” said Alejandro Madrazo, a lecturer at the Center for Economics Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City.

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Madrazo started a petition drive on Change.org against Medina Mora’s nomination, which on Wednesday had collected more than 56,755 signatures.

“Medina Mora was one of the captains of a costly and ineffective war on drugs launched by former President Felipe Calderón, who is the architect behind the disaster facing Mexico today,” Madrazo said in an interview.

According to him, under Medina Mora’s leadership, the conviction rates at the Attorney General’s Office dropped to less than 25 percent from a 40- to 48-percent rating. “This demonstrates his enormous incapability to conduct investigations,” Madrazo said.

In a letter, Medina Mora rejected the allegations made against him and said it was false that security agencies deteriorated under his leadership.

Medina Mora has also been haunted by an assessment of his tenure by the US Embassy in Mexico City in a 2009 secret cable later made public by WikiLeaks.

“His modest record of convictions of thousands arrested on drug-related charges, and his reservations with regard to the more aggressive use of his office, clearly contributed to Calderón’s decision to replace him,” wrote John Feely, the deputy chief of the mission at the embassy.

Medina Mora is haunted by his reported low conviction rate while he served as attorney general

Alma Beltrán, a lawyer with the pro-abortion group GIRE, said Medina Mora “lacks perspective on gender and human rights.” As attorney general, he filed a constitutional complaint in 2007 against the Mexico City government for legalizing abortion.

Peña Nieto appointed “a personal friend” but above all “a person responsible for the human rights disaster in Mexico today,” Madrazo said.

A recent United Nations report concluded that torture and executions by security forces were common in Mexico. Most of these cases, Madrazo pointed out, will reach the Supreme Court in the coming years.

“Medina Mora will then be both a judge and party in these cases,” he said.

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