U.S., Mexican officials strategize together

The week of Oct. 12, seven state attorneys general from the U.S. traveled to Mexico City to meet our counterparts, the attorneys general from Mexican states, to strengthen our criminal justice collaboration that began five years ago.

Our meetings focused on joint efforts to combat human trafficking, drug trafficking and Internet privacy crimes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Paid for by the Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership and not at taxpayer expense, the meetings sought to address common problems of organized crime cartels in Mexico that smuggle drugs and people into the United States and in turn smuggle money and weapons back into Mexico.

The working relationship with our Mexican Attorneys General colleagues, who face growing threats from the drug cartels, illustrates our common bond in providing safety to the citizens of our respective states under the rule of law.

The meetings concluded with the group of state Attorney Generals from the U.S. and Mexico unanimously agreeing to continue their collaboration, including sharing information to prosecute human trafficking, money laundering and Internet crimes; conducting binational seminars and exchange programs; and our side assisting the Mexican officials with investigation, prosecution and trial techniques such as forensic evidence.

This collaborative effort began as Mexico transitioned away from its old inquisitional trial system toward a new adversarial court system under a 2008 amendment to the Mexican Constitution. This was a difficult structural change in which Mexico’s experienced attorneys, prosecutors, judges and law professors were required to learn a new system.

We learned most of the federal courts and some state courts in Mexico already have made the change, but they must do more to accomplish the complete transition. To that end, my office hosted a training event in Indianapolis in September 2010 where approximately 70 prosecutors and investigators from Mexico were trained by Indiana officials.

Since then, the Mexican criminal justice system has been strengthened to address the serious threat to the rule of law posed by drug cartels that could cause instability within their country.

What we learned at the recent Attorneys General conference in Mexico City is that if organized drug cartels were to succeed in undermining the stability of Mexico it could create a real potential for civil unrest and in turn refugees seeking to leave that country — quite apart from the economic migration from Mexico that currently occurs.

As Mexico is Indiana’s third-largest trading partner, the economic interest to our state is enormous. The stability and security of our neighbors to the south is vital to our own security in the U.S.

I came away from the binational conference impressed by the bravery and dedication of the state Attorney Generals from Mexico who want to serve their fellow citizens and protect them from predatory crime and exploitation by cartels, and to the extent my office and I can advise and assist our colleagues, we will.

Greg Zoeller is the attorney general of Indiana.