The failure of Mexico’s former federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to successfully prosecute corruption cases, grave human rights violations, and other high-impact crimes played a lead role in generating the widespread violence and insecurity that plagues Mexico today. In the face of generalized impunity, Mexican and international human rights groups, anti-corruption experts, and criminal justice reformers have led a historic push in recent years to reduce political meddling in sensitive criminal investigations.
In February 2014, Mexico’s Congress passed a constitutional reform mandating the transformation of the PGR into an independent, autonomous National Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR), separate from the executive branch. After years of delay in passing the constitutional and legislative reforms needed to formally create the FGR, Alejandro Gertz Manero took office as Mexico’s first autonomous national prosecutor in January 2019.
While the creation of the FGR sparked hope for a new era in Mexico—in which politicians and security forces are held responsible for their misdeeds and citizens have trust in the criminal justice system— the new institution has yet to realize its potential. National Prosecutor Gertz has failed to fulfill several essential aspects of his mandate, including by illegally appointing special prosecutors, closing off spaces for citizen participation, and announcing reform efforts that are inherently incompatible with the spirit of the FGR and Mexico’s broader adversarial criminal justice system.
In this report, we discuss the importance of this transition and analyze the FGR’s performance in the first year and a half of Gertz’s nine-year term. We also examine how the FGR has operated during COVID-19, as Gertz’s response to the pandemic has been criticized for not implementing proper safeguards for employees and for using the pandemic as a pretext for stalling the FGR’s work.