Twenty-seven of 31 suspected drugs cartel members arrested this week in a Mexico City raid have been freed by a judge, marking the government’s second high-profile blow on policing the drugs war in as many weeks.
The suspects were nabbed by security forces in a central district of the capital on Tuesday after authorities seized two laboratories used to produce synthetic drugs, 50 kg (110 pounds) of chemical precursors, more than two tonnes of marijuana and 20 kg of cocaine, as well as an unspecified amount of money, rocket launchers and grenades.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the unexpected release of the criminal suspects would be investigated but he cautioned against a rush to judgment.
“Here the important thing is to see what the arguments were that were used to release these people,” said the leftist president, who took office in December.
“Let’s not rush. If someone acted improperly, illegally, if there was corruption, we will condemn it,” he said.
With homicides on track to hit an all-time high this year and following the bungled arrest and release last week of Ovidio Guzmán López, son of drug boss “El Chapo” Guzmán, López Obrador’s approach to security has come under increasing scrutiny.
Ovidio was freed on 17 October after Sinaloa cartel gunmen overwhelmed security forcing his release and prompting a public outcry.
On Friday López Obrador said police were under-trained and had been ineffective in putting together case files, and gathering all the evidence needed to keep suspected criminals behind bars.
“The case files are wrongly put together and this lets judges say: ‘This is wrong, there isn’t enough evidence, there are contradictions,’ and then they go free,” he said.
The circumstances surrounding the release of the 27 suspects believed to belong to the Tepito Union cartel, including the identity of the judge who handled their case and when they were allowed to walk free, were not immediately known.
A judicial reform, approved by Congress in 2008 and implemented in 2016 under the administration of López Obrador’s predecessor, requires police to present more evidence for arrests.
The reform sought to modernise the judicial system by ending closed-doors trials and implementing public proceedings where prosecutors and defenders present evidence.
López Obrador said security officials need to be “better trained” and that judges must be “honest, incorruptible”.
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