Mexico | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Mexico City
Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Mexico has been an electoral democracy since 2000, and alternation in power between the leading parties is routine at both the federal and state levels. However, the country suffers from severe rule-of-law deficits that limit full citizen enjoyment of political rights and civil liberties. Violence perpetrated by organized criminals, corruption among government officials, human rights abuses by both state and nonstate actors, and a climate of impunity are among the most visible of Mexico’s many governance challenges.

Key Developments: 
  • Corruption accusations against government officials, particularly at the state level, contributed to multiple losses for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in gubernatorial elections in June.
  • Little progress was made in the investigation of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students, an event that continues to generate outrage and protests. In April, international investigators released a report questioning key elements of the government’s narrative.
  • Criminal violence rose sharply during the year, and by October, homicide cases had reached their highest levels since the current government took office in late 2012.
Executive Summary: 

The administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, head of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), began its term in December 2012 with a promising set of reforms accompanied by slowing homicide rates, generating optimism about Mexico’s economic and social direction. However, starting in 2014 the government’s narrative of progress has been undermined by corruption scandals and rights abuses. The problems continued in 2016, with an increase in homicide rates, corruption scandals implicating high-level PRI officials, and tension with international rights observers over the government’s investigation of the 2014 disappearance of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero.

The results of gubernatorial elections in 12 states in June illustrated the effects of mounting corruption scandals involving government officials. PRI candidates lost races in several states in which incumbents had been accused of graft, including the populous states of Veracruz and Chihuahua; notably, the elections also marked the first time in the PRI’s history it lost the governorship of Veracruz, as well as those of Quintana Roo and Tamaulipas. In the fall, arrest warrants were issued for outgoing Veracruz governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa of the PRI and outgoing Sonora governor Guillermo Padrés Elías of the National Action Party (PAN); Padrés turned himself in to authorities in November, while Duarte remained at large at the year’s end.

Weak accountability for human rights violations also generated political discontent throughout the year. Judicial processes surrounding the Iguala disappearances continued against scores of local police, drug gang members, and the mayor of the city and his wife, but as of year’s end no convictions had been achieved. In June, government cooperation with a group of international experts backed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), ended when the government opted not to renew the agreement governing the group’s mission. In April, the experts had released the latest of a series of reports assailing investigative and procedural lapses in the government’s investigation; the report cast renewed doubt on the government’s conclusion that the students’ remains had been burned in a municipal dump, and alleged that the testimony the government’s description of the crime rested on had been extracted by torturing suspects. The state agreed in July to an accord that authorized a reduced presence by the investigative group.

Other manifestations of accountability shortcomings included the May dismissal of charges against soldiers accused of murder following a 2014 confrontation between criminals and an army unit in the State of Mexico that left 22 people dead. In August, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) accused the federal police of covering up extrajudicial executions following a 2015 raid that resulted in the deaths of 42 alleged gang members and a police officer. Rights watchers also decried the slow pace of investigations into the June deaths of eight protesters at the hands of the federal police during violent teachers’ protests in Oaxaca. The steadily rising violence throughout the year undermined the message of security improvements that the government had broadcast during the initial years of the Peña Nieto administration.

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