Bill to reform Mexican justice system up for vote today

MEXICO CITY — Mexican legislators are expected today to overhaul the country’s famously ineffective justice system, implementing public trials nationwide while turning up the heat on organized crime.

The long-awaited “justice reform” bill — the result of several years of fierce debate among security experts, academics and human rights activists — would amend the constitution to include the presumption of innocence and other guarantees. It would also provide alternatives to jail for minor crimes, in an attempt to reduce overcrowding in Mexican prisons.

Many of the new rights, however, would not apply to suspected members of the criminal mafias, who could be held for up to 40 days without charges. The bill would also insert in the constitution a liberal definition of “organized crime” as “a group of three or more people formed with the intention of repeatedly breaking the law.”

The provisions are among several concessions to the security forces, who are demanding new legal weapons in their fight against drug cartels.

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