April 4, 2016
A Milestone as Mexico moves closer to a New Justice System
U.S. Embassy, Mexico
The formal inauguration ceremony to mark the 100th courtroom
equipped under the Mérida Initiative took place on April 1 in Victoria de Durango, in the presence of top Mexican officials
including Jorge Herrera Caldera, Governor of Durango; Dra. María de los Ángeles Fromow Rangel, Technical Secretary,
Technical Secretariat of the Coordination Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System (SETEC); and Dr. Apolonio
Betancourt Ruiz, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of Justice. Steve Kraft, Director, International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement (INL), who represented the United States Embassy in Mexico at the event, hailed the inauguration as a significant
milestone in Mexico’s transition to a new, more transparent, and efficient criminal justice system.
“The United States Embassy
in Mexico, under the Merida Initiative, is privileged to have collaborated with SETEC to equip 100 courtrooms – seven
of which are in Durango – to assist Mexico’s transition to a new justice system,” stated Mr. Kraft during
the inauguration. Kraft noted that “with the completion of 100 courtrooms, we have equipped just over 50% of the
total of our commitment with SETEC.” Mr. Kraft indicated that the U.S. government is prepared to equip additional
courtrooms in response to requests from states throughout Mexico.
The equipment package provided by the United States to prepare Mexican
courtrooms to conduct oral trials under the new accusatory system includes audio-visual and data storage equipment, software,
and warranty and maintenance with training for operations personnel. Prior to installation, a specialist performs an
assessment of each courtroom to ensure it has appropriate facilities, including climate-controlled rooms for servers and separate
areas to conduct oral trials and house witnesses. The approximate cost of equipping each courtroom is USD105,000.
In addition, under the Mérida
Initiative the United States government is supporting Mexico’s transition to a new accusatory justice system by training
1,600 police officers as First Responder Instructors, funding study tours and exchanges for members of the legal and justice
professions, helping to train forensics experts, and assisting forensics labs to achieve international accreditation.
The Mérida Initiative
is a bilateral security cooperation agreement between Mexico and the United States. Through eight years of implementation,
the Merida Initiative has led to greater cooperation between the United States and Mexico. It has provided tangible support
to Mexico’s law enforcement and judicial institutions, helped to counteract the illegal trade in narcotics, and strengthened
border security. To date, the Mérida Initiative has delivered more than USD 1.4 billion in equipment, training, and
capacity building assistance to the government of Mexico.
Press release, "Inauguration of 100th Courtroom Equipped under Mérida Initiative: A Milestone towards a New Justice System," Victoria de Durango, Durango, Apr. 1, 2016; Embassy of the United States, Mexico