Victoria de Durango, Durango, April 1 2016 – The formal inauguration ceremony to mark the 100th courtroom equipped under the Mérida Initiative took place earlier today 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.