Federal judge and his wife murdered in Mexico

Armed men killed a federal judge in Mexico on Tuesday. The gunmen killed his wife, too. So far, the authorities have reported their deaths and condemned them. No further details have been given. The attack occurred before noon at his home in the capital of Colima State, on the northwest coast of the country. The judge's name was Uriel Villegas and he was assigned to the Federal Criminal Justice Center in the region.

Federal Criminal Justice Center District Judge Uriel Villegas Ortiz and his wife were murdered in Colima, Mexico. Photo: Social media
Federal Criminal Justice Center District Judge Uriel Villegas Ortiz and his wife were murdered in Colima, Mexico. Photo: Social media

Until the end of last year, at least a hundred federal justice officials had some form of protection in the country. 91 traveled in an armored car, 89 lived with escorts and 89 wore personal protective clothing such as a bulletproof vest. In addition, eight enjoyed interim protection measures, according to the latest report of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Originally from Ciudad Juárez, Villegas arrived in Colima after passing through the state of Jalisco. Zaldívar's report, presented in December, mentions the difficulties in providing justice in Jalisco: "The State has become a risk area for the provision of justice (...) so the readmissions and suspensions that led to them were carried out".

According to the report mentioned above, the federal justice system prepared 199 risk assessments for public servants in the Federal Judicial Branch in order to determine security measures and their duration.

Judges like Villegas are the ones who approve arrests for sensitive crimes such as organized crime or drug trafficking. The daily Reforma has published that Villegas ordered the transfer of Rubén Oseguera González, alias El Menchito, son of the leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, Nemesio Oseguera, from prison in 2018.

Just two weeks ago, the Secretary of the Treasury reported on the coup that had just taken place against the Jalisco cartel, after 1,939 bank accounts were blocked. Investigators from the unit's Financial Intelligence Unit detected the movement of 20 billion pesos - US$900 million - in these accounts before the embargo.

The murder of the judge also occurs at a time of transition in Mexico's federal justice system.

Mexico has been registering very high levels of violence for more than a decade. The country registers tens of thousands of murders every year, without the strategies of the governments in power have worked so far.

During Felipe Calderón's six-year term (2006-2012), the Executive made use of the Armed Forces. Calderon sent the Army to fight organized crime. Between the struggles of the groups and the response of the uniformed personnel, murders, and human rights violations committed by the authorities skyrocketed.

From 2012 to 2018, Enrique Peña Nieto and his government barely changed the strategy and the figures continued to rise. Peña created a civilian security corps, the gendarmerie, to lead the security effort. In the end, it remained a mere anecdote.

With Lopez Obrador, Congress approved the creation of a new security force, the National Guard, halfway between the civil and the military. So far, its effects have not been much noticed.