Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Drug war deaths in Acapulco drop sharply 130 days after Mexican army steps in

For once a bit of good news, as federal military units get the job done

Acapulco, Guerrero - A scant five months after Mexican federal troops were brought into this beleaguered Pacific coast state where the Sinaloa Cartel (also known as Cartel del Pacífico) and Los Zetas have struggled to outdo each other in narco terror, deaths have plunged by a dramatic 52.3%.

The announcement was made during a press conference yesterday by state officials. The good news is sure to please Mexico's federal government, which continues to take much heat both domestically and from abroad for what many have condemned as a failed -- and dangerous -- militarization of the drug war launched by the Felipe Calderón administration in December 2006. But Calderón has promised to continue the unprecedented hunt-and-destroy mission directed at Mexico's powerful international drug cartels until his last day in office later this year, despite the often quite vocal criticism.

A spokesman for the state government attributed the precipitous execution decline in Guerrero to the capture of numerous cartel operatives, as well as techniques such as the installation of 600 security cameras at strategic locations throughout Acapulco. Also, military forces have also been particularly vigilant around school facilities. Last year teachers in the city were subjected to extortion demands, death threats and even a display of severed heads (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/09/five-human-heads-found-by-school-but.html).

The federal military offensive underway around Acapulco is known as Operation Safe Guerrero. A similar approach was adopted last year in the Gulf port of Veracruz -- the "City of Cadavers" -- after the entire 1,000 person local police force was disbanded (fired), due to corruption and infiltration (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/federal-troops-take-over-police.html. But that operation has been less successful so far, since the PRI state government there had let things get utterly out of hand in recent years. Veracruz drug traffickers are extremely well entrenched, and they're prepared to take on all comers.

Government sources say that in 2011 there were over 1,500 drug executions in Guerrero state, including 795 in Acapulco (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/47515-have-died-in-mexicos-five-year.html). The horrible toll has decimated the area's foreign tourist trade (less so domestic travel) in recent years. Although the security situation in Guerrero may be improving, the entire area remains on a U.S. State Dept. warning list issued just a week ago. In the Feb. 8 travel alert, Americans were urged to stay out of Guerrero, plus 17 other states (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/us-issues-new-travel-alert-for-mexico.html).

Drug war militarization and Mexico's 2012 presidential campaign
PAN nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota has said she'll generally stay the course adopted by Calderón (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/josefina-mota-promises-full-force-of.html). But she'd tweak his strategy in a second phase of the drug war with greater emphasis on ridding local police forces of endemic corruption, plus retraining to prepare them for their primary law enforcement role once military forces are pulled from the fight (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/josefina-mota-calls-for-second-phase-in.html).

PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is unequivocal on this issue: if elected, he plans to "return the Mexican army to its quarters" within six months, and restore all law enforcement duties to local and state police. There's no ambiguity with López Obrador.

PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto has wavered on the issue, saying different things at different times to different audiences. He's keeping his powder dry, and his opponents (as well as the voting public) in the dark on this overriding national security issue.

For more details on the use of Mexican military forces in the drug war, which is one of the most critical issues in the 2012 campaign, read here: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/lopez-obrado-repeats-promise-to-pull.html#more.

Peña Nieto still avoids key drug war issue - will he use military forces?: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/03/pena-nieto-still-avoids-key-drug-war.html.
More evidence that Mexican drug war strategy is working: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/more-evidence-mexican-drug-war-strategy.html.
Calderón responds to drug war critics: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/calderon-responds-to-drug-war-critics.html.
Mexico will polygraph almost half a million cops to weed out local corruption: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/weeding-out-corrupt-local-cops-remains.html.
65% of Mexico "off limits" to foreign travelers in 2010-2011: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/11/65-of-mexico-declared-off-limits-to.html

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