When soldiers swarmed Mexican city halls last year to arrest 10 mayors for alleged ties to an infamous drug cartel, authorities boasted that the age of impunity for corrupt Mexican politicians was over. Mass detentions of elected officials were seen as a bold new thrust in a vicious drug war that has left more than 22,000 dead. But the government of President Felipe Calderón has quietly released the politicians as federal prosecutors dropped their cases and as judges ordered them set free for lack of evidence, reports the Washington Post.
The episode illustrates a central challenge faced by Mexico, where law enforcement authorities remain hard pressed to win major conspiracy cases, either because they arrest the wrong people or because prosecutors remain hobbled by incompetence. It suggests that despite Calderón’s pledges of sweeping reform, Mexico has a long way to go in rebuilding its corrupt and hapless police and judiciary. Nine of the 10 mayors arrested last May in the western state of Michoacan are now free. The latest was released Friday after 11 months in prison. Most of them have returned to their duties at city hall, some after months of incarceration. None of the cases went to trial. No explanation has been issued, no apologies given.