Thursday, September 6, 2012

Peña Nieto transition team confirms: Mexican army, marines and federal units will remain on the streets

MGRR News Analysis -
What a difference a year makes

Ten months ago, as Mexico's president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto prepared to launch his 2012 campaign, he made a quick trip north for a get-acquainted meeting with U.S. officials. In public comments, he called for a withdrawal of Mexican armed forces from the drug cartel offensive launched by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006 - the so called National Security Strategy. Four months later, in March, he told vice president Joe Biden that while he remained committed to the drug war, he would pursue a different strategy. The new PRI chief executive probably wishes he had been more circumspect in his comments.

Two days ago Mr. Peña Nieto named his transition team, and yesterday one of them, Miguel Osorio Chong, addressed the drug war. Chong is a former governor of Hidalgo state, and has been appointed the team's security policy coordinator.

Chong said that the incoming Peña Nieto administration is awaiting a detailed "diagnostic" report from the Calderón government, and that transition team members plan to meet with current cabinet officers charged with security matters. "Then we'll be able to say what we're going to do, and what alternative strategies we have in mind. In the meantime the army and the marines will be out there, and federals will be out there. But for sure new policies will be implemented."

The day after his July 1 victory, Peña Nieto told the New York Times that he would expand federal crime fighting forces by at least 75,000, including the creation of a new national gendarmerie 40,000 strong, modeled after Colombia's and Italy's. The former head of Colombia's state police force, whom Peña Nieto has hinted he may appoint to lead the drug war, proposes using hunt-and-destroy strike teams to track down cartel kingpins. And a week after his election, the president-elect told CNN that in the war against the drug cartels there would be no big changes, just mid-course corrections.

Whatever "new" policies or strategies the incoming PRI president may announce when he takes office Dec. 1, it's clear that for Mexican citizens there will be little or no discernible change. Enrique Peña Nieto's drug war will look very much like Felipe Calderón's drug war, perhaps with some new uniforms.

Oct. 2: Peña Nieto's transition team announced today that he will travel to the United States next month, to meet with whomever wins the presidential election. "The most important message is that Enrique Peña Nieto is ready to work with the victor," said an aide. Team members are conferencing this week with their American counterparts in Washington. "What we've heard from the United States government is that it's totally open to forthcoming proposals of the new Mexican administration. And what we've noticed the most is not a desire (by the U.S.) to direct or steer our policies, but rather just to learn about them, with a view towards cooperating and working together with us, but always within a framework of mutual respect for one another's national sovereignty."
Senior aides to the president-elect have been going to great lengths to emphasize that Mexico-U.S. relations are multi-dimensional, and exceed drug war issues. Translation: "Let's discuss something other than narcotics trafficking and organized crime, which may get worse before they get better."

EPN has his work cut out for him: Mexican drug cartels will likely morph into "super gangs"

Oct. 12 - In an unusual public statement today, an official of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said Mexico is confronting a true "emergency" in its war against cartels and organized crime, and urged that military forces remain on the street until circumstances permit a "return to quarters."

Nov. 21 - Mexican security survey gives poor marks to Calderón, reveals low confidence in Peña Nieto
Sept. 24 - "Don't throw us back," Calderón tells Peña Nieto
July 8 - Mexican voters got suckered on drug war
July 7 - EPN security consultant elaborates on "new" Mexican drug war strategy - but is it?
June 11 - New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong
Apr. 8 - After months of wavering, EPN takes a stand: Mexican army will retain pivotal role
Apr. 5 - Peña Nieto agrees that Veracruz should remain under federal military control
Mar. 6 - Peña Nieto still avoids key drug war issue: will Mexican armed forces participate?

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