“HEARST” for Borderland Beat

Mencho’s brother El Rodo is said to have now left Altiplano prison. His official release was spurred by Rodo’s lawyers filing an injunction which required he be freed within a 3 hour window. 

The FGR sent out a press release in which they gave further details about what led to Rodo’s arrest. They also allege the municipal police were colluding with the CJNG to have Rodo freed. 

They further allege the judge gave undue advantages to Rodo’s defense team. 

The Requirement to Release Rodo 

On Sunday, April 28, judge Rogelio León Díaz Villarreal ruled the Mencho’s brother Abraham Oseguera Cervantes, “El Rodo”, should be released from prison but there was no confirmation that Rodo was actually released. To read more about that, please see this previous story

The next day, on April 29, President Lopez Obrador told reporters that Rodo was still in Altiplano prison. 

The delay in his release was reportedly due to a requirement which mandates that the records of all 32 states in Mexico be checked for other pending charges against Rodo before he is released.

Additionally, President Obrador stated that they were asking the US government if they had any pending charges against Rodo, saying “We do not want to act hastily, this is a delicate matter, there is information that must be verified that this person has a history of having been in legal, judicial proceedings in the United States.”

“Imagine if we proceed too hastily and something similar to what happened in the previous administration happens to us: one weekend they just let Mr. Caro Quintero go free. And the next week the claim comes in and they reactivate the arrest warrant again [but] Mr. Caro Quintero was not there, he had already left. He was a fugitive,”

That same day, Rodo’s lawyers filed an injunction which would force prison officials at Altiplano to release Rodo in the next three hours or they would face fines. 

The FGR’s Statement Condemning the Judge & Local Police 

Then, at about 8:00 pm that same day, the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) put out a statement on Twitter in which they said they will appeal the judge’s ruling and they may pursue charges “against various authorities.”

They wrote:

“Such as improper judicial conduct which refused to grant search warrants and gave credibility to questionably edited videos; as well as the judge’s neglect in addressing accusations and evidence of Rodo’s serious crimes. And the ominous sense of there being a complicity and cover-up by the municipal police of Autlan and its police directors.”

“It was under these circumstances that the Judge ruled that said person should be released, all while the Judge willfully ignored and failed to evaluate the allegations of the serious crimes committed by Abraham [El Rodo].”

“All of this is yet another example of the unjust bias and inconsistent criteria applied by judges, which should not be determined by each individual judge, but should instead be determined by the law, as stated in Article 19 of the General Constitution of the Republic.”

The FGR Recounts Details of the Raid Which Captured Rodo

At the end of their tweet, the FGR linked to a press release, which gives further details about what led up to detention of Rodo and information about how the logistics of the hearing, saying:

In the early morning hours of April 21, National Guard soldiers spotted three people outside of the home who were carrying firearms. The three people made threats [towards the soldiers] and then walked into the home, closing the door behind them. 

Because of this, the National Guard soldiers were obligated to pursue after the people who were inside the home, as they have a legal obligation to pursue a flagrantly criminal act.  



Inside the home, the soldiers found Abraham [El Rodo] carrying a long-barrel firearm of 5.56 x 45 caliber, as well as a 9mm pistol. 

Abraham was carrying a ‘wallet-bag’ which contained 38 grams of cocaine, 2000 fentanyl pills, and 255 fluoprofentanil tablets. 

He was arrested due to his possession of these firearms and drugs, and he was flown to Mexico City, where he presented before the judicial authorities. 


It is very important to note that during that incident, relatives of Abraham attempted to hide the true identity of who he is, saying he was instead a man named “Rodolfo Garibay González.

It was proven that said person had obtained a license under this false name, which is in itself a crime. 

Officers from the Autlán Municipal Police, filed a complaint against the National Guard soldiers over their action during this incident, despite knowing the soldiers were acting with federal authority. 

The officers supported their legal complaint with false evidence which was procured through the further collusion and complicity of the local police, which went as far up the chain of command as to reach the deputy police director. 

That same collusion continued when police officers were presented as witnesses for the defense of Abraham during the hearing. 

During the hearing to determine if Abraham was legally detained, Rodo and his team of lawyers requested the hearing be delayed several days so they could properly prepare their defense, which was granted. 

When the hearing occurred, the defense team presented small clips of video which was edited in a non-chronological way. The video entered into evidence did not have the proper technical documents which are needed to determine if the footage is credible and un-altered.

Their video clips were not given to prosecutors far enough ahead of time in discovery, as is legally required. The video was handed over two hours before the hearing and this prevented prosecutors from being able to evaluate the credibility of the footage. The failure of the defense to hand over the footage to prosecutors in a timely manner left prosecutors unable to form a proper argument before the court. 

It was under these circumstances, and based upon the unverified video, that the Judge ruled that the detention of Abraham was unlawful, all while the judge refused to evaluate the state’s allegations about the serious crimes he committed. 

Because of this improper judicial conduct, an unfair advantage was given to the defendant and this is the basis for our appeal. And we will immediately file legal complaints against the Autlán Municipal Police.

Rodo Has Officially Left Prison

The publication Informador wrote this morning, April 30, that “sources within the prison system” told them that Rodo has left Altiplano. 

They write that “the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) was unable to file another criminal case with Rodo to keep him in prison.”

The following video shows Rodo walking out of Altiplano. 

Video Source: Foro TV

The Larger Conversation About Judges in Mexico

President Lopez Obrador has highlighted this incident as an example of the inaccuracies he says were present in a recent US State Department report, the “2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Violations.” 

The report, which has been put out annually since 1977, evaluates over 100 countries according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. 

Last week, the president of Mexico took issue with the 2023 report (which is published in 2024) on Mexico, saying the US State department were “liars” and the US was a nation that was “stagnant” and “in decline”. 

President Obrador claimed the report being written violated the sovereignty of Mexico and presumably every other one of the countries profiled. 

It’s worth noting that the report profiles a comprehensive list of countries, including some of the US’s closest allies, like Canada and the UK

Yesterday, the President used the judge’s ruling to free Rodo as an example of why he is critical of the judiciary in Mexico, saying “A judge is wanting to release an alleged criminal, a famous one.”

“So is this now enough to send a message to [US Secretary of State] Blinken? To the [US] State Department? What are we left with now? Look, you are defending the judges and look at what they are doing.

President Obrador’s specific call out Secretary Blinken is interesting.

 

The beginning of the State Department’s report includes an executive summary of the important global changes which is signed by Secretary Blinken.

This summary mentions Mexico only to commended it on its “advances in implementing labor reforms in Mexico, where workers are overcoming obstacles to organizing and starting to improve working conditions,” which is an issue that AMLO’s administration has prioritized.

In terms of international relations, the specific callout of Mexico’s advancement in an area that AMLO has championed was likely intended to be a friendly gesture towards the Obrador administration.


Specifics of the Report

The summary on specifically Mexico’s report begins with “there were no significant changes in the human rights situation in Mexico during the year.”

 

It goes on to say that:

 

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of:

  • unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; 
  • enforced disappearance; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; 
  • harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
  • arbitrary arrest or detention 
  • serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; 
  • serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including violence against journalists and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious government corruption; 
  • extensive gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, child, early, and forced marriage, femicide,

 

President Obrador disputed the report’s statements about his administration’s conflicts with the judiciary branch, local human rights groups, and personal attacks against members of the press, including the doxing of a New York Times writer.

 

When the report covered Mexico’s judiciary, it did highlight an instance of cartel corruption of the judiciary without the full context of the situation. The report writes about the judiciary:

 

E. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL

Although the constitution and law provided for an independent judiciary, court decisions were susceptible to improper influence by both private and public entities, particularly at the state and local level, as well as by transnational criminal organizations. Authorities sometimes failed to respect court orders, and arrest warrants were sometimes ignored, consistent with the lack of judicial independence and rule of law throughout the legal system. Across the criminal justice system, many actors lacked the necessary training and capacity to carry out their duties fairly and consistently in line with the principle of equal justice.

President López Obrador and other government actors verbally attacked the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, criticizing judges who ruled against the administration on numerous occasions. In March, during a massive rally in Mexico City, government supporters burned an effigy of Chief Justice Norma Piña, accusing her of corruption. In May, Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia led a demonstration in Mexico City where supporters carried coffins with the names of seven of the 11 Supreme Court justices and accused them of siding with conservative opponents and ruling against administration priorities.

 

On June 16, the National Guard detained Judge Angélica Sánchez Hernández without an arrest warrant in Mexico City for alleged crimes against public faith and influence peddling after she ordered the release of murder suspect Itiel Palacios from pretrial detention. A federal judge ordered her immediate release after concluding local authorities violated the suspension of an injunction Hernández obtained on July 9. Authorities previously arrested Sánchez Hernández on June 5 for allegedly shooting at police officers, which she denied, and was later released. She remained under house arrest while the investigations continued.

 

So, on one hand, the section opens by acknowledging the issue of cartel groups (or “transnational criminal organizations”) corrupting the judicial system, but on the other hand it also fails to highlight that the “murder suspect”, Itiel Palacios, is a known cartel figure and there was significant concern of cartel corruption surrounding Itiel’s release.

 

That being said, choosing to detain judges without an arrest warrant is an ineffective (and easily reversed) move. Avoiding actions like that would strengthen the focus paid to the actual issue of cartel corruption.

Sources: FGR Tweet, FGR Press Release, El Universal, Milenio, Informador, Milenio, 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights: Mexico