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Policing the past: transitional justice and the special prosecutor’s office in Mexico, 2000-2006

Trevino-Rangel, Javier (2012) Policing the past: transitional justice and the special prosecutor’s office in Mexico, 2000-2006. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis looks at how Mexico’s new democratic regime led by President Vicente Fox (2000–2006) faced past state crimes perpetrated during the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI’s) seventy-year authoritarian rule (1929–2000). To test the new regime’s democratic viability, Fox’s administration had to settle accounts with the PRI for the abuses the party had perpetrated in the past, but without upsetting it in order to preserve the stability of the new regime. The PRI was still a powerful political force and could challenge Fox’s efforts to democratise the country. Hence, this thesis offers an explanation of the factors that facilitated the emergence of Mexico’s ‘transitional justice’ process without putting at risk Fox’s relationship with the PRI elite. This thesis is framed by a cluster of literature on transitional justice which follows a social-constructivist approach and it is supported by exhaustive documentary research, which I carried out for six years in public and private archives. This thesis argues that Fox established a Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) as he sought to conduct ‘transitional justice’ through the existing structures of power: laws and institutions (e.g., the General Attorney’s Office) administered by members of the previous regime. So, Fox opted to face past abuses but left the task in the hands of the institutions whose members had carried out the crimes or did nothing to prevent them. The PRI rapidly accepted the establishment of the SPO because the most relevant prosecutorial strategy to come to terms with the PRI was arranged by the PRI’s own elite during the authoritarian era – prosecutorial strategy that led to impunity. In this process, the language of human rights played a decisive role as it framed the SPO’s investigations into the past: it determined the kind of violations that qualified for enquiry and, hence, the type of victims who were counted in the process, which perpetrators would be subject to prosecution, and the authorities that would intervene. Categories of human rights violations (e.g. genocide or forced disappearance) were constructed and manipulated in such a way as to grant a de facto amnesty to perpetrators. Fox was able to preserve the stability of the new regime as his prosecutorial strategies never really threatened the PRI elite.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Javier Trevino-Rangel
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Moon, Claire

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