Mexico’s attorney general, an ally of President Enrique Peña Nieto, resigned on Monday, handing victory to a coalition of social groups that have demanded an autonomous prosecutor, the New York Times reports. From the moment he was appointed a year ago, Attorney General Raúl Cervantes was a lightning rod. He leaves as Mexico’s homicide rate has climbed to its highest level in at least 20 years. Seventeen former state governors are under investigation on corruption charges, but only three cases have gone to trial.
Many Mexicans have lost faith in their police and prosecutors; a government survey shows that about nine of 10 crimes go unreported. Even the highest-profile cases, like the disappearance of 43 teachers college students in southern Mexico three years ago, seem to defy resolution. “If there is impunity, if there is violence, it’s because it isn’t being investigated,” said Ana Lorena Delgadillo of the Foundation for Justice and Democratic Rule of Law in Mexico City. Cervantes’s resignation, she argued, should be only the first step to remaking the attorney general’s office. “It’s wrong to say that we have what we want,” she said. A former senator from the president’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, Cervantes was viewed by anti-corruption activists as Peña Nieto’s attempt to shield the party’s power brokers from investigations into graft.