Mexico, Judge’s Murder Rattles López Obrador

On 17 June Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the murder of a federal judge, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, is a “state matter” and that it will not go unpunished.
Mexico violence criminal organisations

Analysis:

Villegas is not the first judge to be murdered in Mexico but the fact that, as a specialised organised crime judge, he was in charge of cases implicating prominent criminals has raised concerns that it represents a direct attack on the judiciary, the likes of which had not been seen since López Obrador assumed office. López Obrador, who says that his government wants to reduce the levels of violence in Mexico and avoid direct confrontation with the country’s criminal organisations, was forceful in his condemnation of the killing. The speculation is that the case could prove to be a turning point for the national security strategy implemented by the López Obrador administration to date.

  • Villegas and his wife were gunned down on 16 June by unidentified assailants that broke into their home in Colima state. Villegas was responsible for ordering the arrest of some prominent criminals in recent years including Rubén ‘El Menchito’ Oseguera González – the son of Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera Cervantes, the leader of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) drug trafficking organisation – prior to his extradition to the US.
  • This has led the authorities to posit that Villegas was murdered due to his work. Hours after news of his death, the president of Mexico’s supreme court (SCJN), Arturo Zaldívar, strongly condemned Villegas’ murder as a “crime against the state” that could not go unpunished.
  • This was echoed by López Obrador during his morning press briefing yesterday. “This is an atrocious crime and the judiciary, the [federal] attorney general’s office, and the executive will work together to punish those responsible… it is a matter of state”, López Obrador said. He went on to say that his government will not be intimidated by organised crime and will continue combating it.

Looking Ahead: Zaldívar has said that failure to fully resolve Villegas’s murder would be “a defeat for the Mexican state… that would mortally wound the rule of law in Mexico”. The onus is on the López Obrador administration to ensure this is not the case.

In brief: US seeking consultation with Mexico over biotechnology products

*US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said that the US government plans to initiate consultations with Mexico over its failure to approve biotechnology (biotech) products manufactured in the US. Lighthizer’s comments came during a hearing before the US Congress on the implementation of the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) regional trade agreement, which is due to take full effect on 1 July. Asked about whether the three signatory countries will implement all of the USMCA provisions by then, Lighthizer admitted there was still some uncertainty over this but that the US government would act “early and often” on any violations of USMCA provisions. To this effect Lighthizer said the US government is already evaluating opening consultations with Mexico ahead of filing a formal complaint under the USMCA rules over the approval for US biotech products. “The reality is that Mexico has not approved any biotechnology products in almost two years… It is a serious problem and seems almost a philosophical problem with the new [Mexican] government”, Lighthizer said.

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