Monday, February 6, 2012

López Obrador repeats promise to pull Mexican military forces from drug war

News analysis - a very bad idea, which fortunately will go absolutely nowhere

Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador today repeated a promise he made last fall. If elected president, he'll remove Mexico's armed forces entirely from the 62 month old drug war launched by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006. It's a repeat of what López Obrador first trial-ballooned in November 2011 ( The PRD nominee says the military will be "returned to their quarters" within six months after he takes office.

Although the announcement is nothing new, it places López Obrador in sharp contrast to PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, who handily won her party's nomination last night (Feb. 5). Vázquez Mota has repeatedly emphasized that she'll stay the course and keep the army in the fight until local security forces -- including hundreds of thousands of municipal officers -- are ready to resume community policing duties, particularly in those areas which are cartel enclaves.

This issue, about which I have written many times, is an absolute no-brainer. López Obrador -- whom I respect -- is dead wrong on this ridiculous proposal. Pulling military forces from the drug war at this point would be an invitation to disaster. The hyperbolic "failed-state" and "civil war" theorizing in which some uninformed commentators love to engage when discussing Mexico's brutal struggle against the drug cartels might actually take on a degree of credibility were the country's military pulled from the hunt for narcos.

Felipe Calderon's military strategy unquestionably has been the right one for Mexico: And all of the media nonsense about large scale "humans rights violations" by the Mexican armed forces (some of which originated with the U.S. press) is a big lie:

To illustrate my points --

Example one: Police and local security forces in Veracruz, Mexico -- the "City of Cadavers" (my terminology) -- were so utterly corrupt and infilitrated by the cartels (mainly Los Zetas) that just before Christmas the entire 1,000 person department was disbanded. Everyone was fired (they got their final checks and some severance pay, and were told to clear their gear out of their lockers). Local policing in Veracruz and surrounding suburban communities is now being provided exclusively by the Mexican army and marines; indeed, the entire metropolis is a federal military district. And it's a good thing, too. In 2011, naked, brutalized bodies (or parts of bodies) had a way of being dumped on city streets in broad daylight in the once popular tourist resort. Veracruz police are sent packing:

Fired Veracruz cops pack their gear and hit the streets, 4 days before Christmas

Example two: Last week local police in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, took up indefinite residence in fortified hotels to escape marauding sicarios (drug cartel executioners) who are ruthlessly hunting them down at work and at home, 24/7 ( Some in the U.S. press have reported that "things are getting better in Juárez." Tell that to the street cop on foot patrol at 3:00 a.m. -- or for that matter at high noon.

Does this sound like a police force ready to take on the cartels -- or one desperately fleeing them? But it should be no surprise to anyone paying the least attention to the reality of life in Mexico, where local police are severely underpaid and outgunned:

Where does PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto stand on this very important issue? Who knows. For the ephemeral Peña Nieto, a pragmatist at birth, his "official position" on such topics is subject to "adjustment" at anytime to deal with the political exigencies of the moment. In other words, Peña Nieto re-writes his election playbook as he goes along. Last fall, while on a brief get-to-know-me visit to the U.S., he said he would pull Mexico's military forces from the drug war ( But of late he's been waffling a bit, singing a slightly different tune ( Enrique's smart enough to understand that a drug war without the armed forces is a recipe for internal disaster, and worse horrors yet to come.

PAN nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota has promised she'll generally stick to the program adopted by Calderón ( 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, and more training to prepare them for their primary law enforcement role once military forces are pulled from the fight (

Enrique Peña Nieto continues to dodge key drug war issue:
Now just which candidate was Sen. John McCain referring to?:
Mexico is polygraphing a half million cops to see if they're clean:
Human Rights Watch, reloaded (yawn . . . ):

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