Sunday, January 15, 2012

Is Enrique Peña Nieto already backing away from key drug war pledge?

News analysis - Oh those inconvenient campaign promises . . .

Last November, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto made a week long trip to Washington and New York, to shake hands and give speeches (in Spanish, since the man doesn't speak English -- or at least well enough to do it in a public forum). In reality, this was the candidate's official "coming out" in the U.S. capital, and a chance to chat privately with some of those he'll be dealing with if elected later this year. If inside-the-Beltway gossip can be trusted, few in the government or Congress (on either side of the aisle) look forward to dealing with a man who many view as a political and intellectual welterweight.

In any case, on Nov. 14 Peña Nieto spoke at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where he called for a withdrawal of Mexican armed forces from the drug cartel offensive launched by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006 (PRI's likely candidate urges withdrawal of military from drug fight: One of the most controversial aspects of the Calderón anti-cartel strategy has been his use of the armed forces to root out organized crime groups behind drug trafficking. Opponents say that since the narcotics trade is ordinary domestic crime, municipal and state police should be on the front lines, and the Mexican military should not participate. But Calderón argues vigorously that widespread corruption in local law enforcement agencies and infiltration by the cartels necessitated his federal approach.

In my November 14 post, I wrote this:

"Peña Nieto's stance comes as no surprise. We're probably getting a preview of PRI's centerpiece campaign strategy in 2012 -- the demand for removal of military units from drug combat. But the PRI candidate did not offer an alternative to Calderón's approach, other than returning local forces to the war. That's a recipe for disaster at this stage. Local forces are far from ready to go it alone, and won't be for several years."

Now it appears that the PRI nominee may be laying the groundwork for jettisoning that centerpiece. Speaking before the party faithful in Monterrey this weekend, he said, "I promise the Mexican people that I'll wage front line combat against organized crime."

No, Peña Nieto didn't specifically state that he would keep the Mexican armed forces in the drug war, but who else is going to lead that "front-line combat" -- the local traffic cops?

Peña Nieto's campaign promises make little difference, though. No matter who is elected the next president of this country, the military will retain primary responsibility for going after narcotics traffickers and drug cartels for a very long time to come. Everybody knows exactly what would happen if they were "returned to their quarters," as PRI and PRD have advocated. Few want to give PAN president Felipe Calderón credit for implementing the strategy while there was still time to save this country from the awful "beast in the cave."

The beast in the cave and the soap opera actor:
The "disgusting, lawless, detestable" PRI:
Mexico is polygraphing half a million cops to see if they're clean:
The L.A. Times doesn't understand the Calderón drug war strategy:

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