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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Human rights commission president laments
the "dark statistics" of Mexico's legal system

By David Gaddis Smith

The president of Mexico's national human rights commission lamented the state of Mexico's judicial system but also held out hope that Mexicans, through education, would learn to exercise their rights and obligations to society.

raul plascenciaRaúl Plascencia Villanueva (left), in a speech to the Universidad de Tijuana (CUT) on Monday, cited what he called the "dark statistics" from a report he released Feb.22 about migrant kidnappings in Mexico.

The Autonomous University of Baja California law school graduate said the commission determined that at least 11,333 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico during a six-month period last year, but that there were fewer than 200 complaints filed with authorities.

"Why is there such a difference between official complaints and reality?" He said the "dark statistics" are that 13 million to 15 million crimes are committed in Mexico per year, "from Tijuana to Mérida," but that only about 1.5 million complaints or charges are filed. Then, out of all the judges in Mexico, only 150,000 judgments are arrived at.

Plascencia said that in the entire country, there are 225,000 people in prison ("and there is no room for even one more") and that 10,000 to 20,000 people enter the prison system annually.

"It is no wonder that criminals see the benefits of committing crimes. Impunity is almost guaranteed," he said.

Still, he held out hope for Mexico's justice system.

He said the commission has published a book of 500 pages on the rights and obligations of Mexico's citizens. "But who is going to read a book of 500 pages?" Plascencia asked, in a country where the average citizen only reads a book a year.

So he said the commission is reducing the book's key points into a booklet that he hopes will be included in the packets of free textbooks that Mexican students receive each year.

He said he hoped the booklet, and other teaching activities that he hopes form a national project, will help impel Mexico forward. He said it will take at least 10 years to get kids who are five to learn to become more responsible citizens.

Plascencia also indicated that he might like the commission's orbit to include medical care.

He said nearly 10,000 doctor positions are vacant — and have been some time — in Mexico's public health system. He said, "If we leave health to the side, ... it will damage society."

He also said that last year, of 115 recommendations the commission made to authorities, fewer than 20 were not accepted or complied with. He said most of those who did not comply were municipal authorities who in many cases lacked the resources needed to comply.

His speech took place before around 300 students and others at the Casa de la Cultura near the university. He expressed his appreciation to university rector Jesús Ruiz Barraza, the former principal of one of Plascencia's alma maters, the Lázaro Cárdenas high school.

Plascencia's speech was given advance coverage in Tijuana's newspapers but what got coverage in Tuesday's papers was a talk given by the human rights commission's goodwill ambassador, actress Kate del Castillo, at Tijuana's Cultural Center against human trafficking. Story about Raúl Plascencia in Frontera

Update, Oct. 12, 2011: Frontera profiles Plascencia.