November 25, 2014 / 8:34 PM / 3 years ago

Mexico's embattled government poised to unveil law and order measures

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Following mass protests in Mexico over the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers two months ago, the government will unveil measures this week designed to improve policing and fix a failing justice system, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto sits during a meeting with lawyers in Mexico City November 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Senate leader Miguel Barbosa of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution said the measures would focus on issues like streamlining the chain of command in the police as well as improving the penal system and access to justice.

The government would present the plans on Thursday, Barbosa said in an interview with Mexican radio.

Ricardo Pacheco, a lawmaker in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party who heads the justice committee in the lower house of Congress, said the plan was to give the state greater powers to combat organized crime and violence.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has been under pressure from protesters to end rampant impunity and brutality by security forces since the 43 students were abducted by corrupt police in the southwestern city of Iguala on the night of Sept. 26.

The government says the students, who attended a radical leftist college, were seen as a threat by the mayor of Iguala, who was in league with a local drug gang.

The local police handed over the students to the gang, which apparently murdered them and then incinerated their bodies, according to the attorney general. However, investigators have yet to come forward with any definitive proof.

Only about 2 percent of crimes in Mexico result in convictions, and despite several indictments in U.S. courts against senior Mexican officials, very few of them have had to face investigations at home, let alone trial.

In 2008, Congress approved a reform that sought to modernize the judicial system, setting a 2016 deadline for Mexico’s 32 states to end behind-closed-doors trials and implement public proceedings where prosecutors and defenders present evidence.

However, with less than two years to go until the deadline, only a handful of states have fully or even partially implemented the measures.

Since Pena Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderon launched a military-led crackdown on drug gangs nearly eight years ago, around 100,000 people have died in gang-related violence in Mexico.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner and Tom Brown

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