Monday, December 17, 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto presents long awaited security plan: Mexico will "move from punishing crime to preventing it"

But is it really "new and improved"?

Guadalajara -
Even before he was elected president of Mexico on July 1, Enrique Peña Nieto and his top campaign consultants spoke of a new drug war strategy which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) would implement if it captured the nation's highest office.

Last week Peña Nieto confirmed plans to create a new 40,000 strong national gendarmerie and increase Mexico's Federal Police by 35,000 agents, both of which he promised during the spring campaign (Dec. 8 - Peña Nieto proceeds with plans for national gendarmerie, asks for $116 million). Today the new president convened the country's national security council and added some details.

In an hour long presentation before the Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Pública (CNSP), Peña Nieto said that Mexico will be divided into five security regions, and that his government's focus will switch from "punishing crime to preventing it." But he did not retract previous assurances that the army will remain on the front lines of the drug war indefinitely (Peña Nieto transition team confirms: Mexican military will stay on the streets). The use of armed forces was instituted by former president Felipe Calderón six years ago this month, and has been highly controversial. The new gendarmerie will begin operations with 10,000 officers, he announced.

The security lodestar, said the president, will be the reduction of violence as quickly as possible, and especially cases of homicide, kidnapping and extortion. The latter two frequently end in murder.

President Peña Nieto said that his new PRI government will concentrate on improving coordination among all levels and regions of law enforcement, while insisting on strict accountability for human rights violations, a theme which plagued his predecessor's administration. He also said that Mexico's National Institute of Migration would be cleansed of staff corruption, a persistent problem within INM. There is nothing novel about that proposal. Last October Mexico fired 121 immigration agents across the country for connections to organized crime, and Calderón vowed to thoroughly weed the agency.

Peña Nieto promised to give greater attention to the thousands of persons who have reportedly disappeared during the 72 month drug war. In October 2011, president Calderón established a National Crime Victims Register devoted to that very task: The vanished: Mexico's open wound.

In his remarks before CNSP today, Peña Nieto asked for support from both the right (PAN) and left (PRD). "When the subject is how to work for the betterment of Mexico, no party colors divide us. We're all on the same team, striving for a Mexico at peace."

Many will ask if there is there any substantive difference between this plan and Calderón's National Security Strategy. The latter was condemned in many quarters, both domestically and abroad.

Dec. 25 - Death toll in Jalisco-Michoacán violence rises to 28, including 13 police officers
Dec. 24 - Christmas Eve narco violence wracks Jalisco and Michoacán, leaving 7 police officers dead
Dec. 23 - Mexico's new PRI government seeks huge increase in domestic security budget
Dec. 19 - Enrique's challenging homework

Dec. 18 - Mexico has 60-80 active drug cartels, says the country's new attorney general, which suggest that many of them have morphed into regional gangs, precisely as experts on both sides of the border predicted in recent months (Mexican super gangs will present big challenge for Enrique Peña Nieto; Mexican drug cartels will likely morph into "super gangs," says U.S. security firm).

Dec. 19 - In the land of the Sierra Tarahumara, narco traffickers wage open war against the poorest
July 23 - Enrique Peña Nieto's biggest challenges will be economy and environment, not drug cartels

Nov. 30 - Peña Nieto promises to cut murders, kidnappings by 50%
Nov. 21 - Mexican survey gives poor marks to Calderón, reveals little confidence in Peña Nieto
Oct. 8 - Peña Nieto's Colombian drug czar is U.S. informant, with orders to make a deal with narcos
July 8 - Mexican voters got suckered on drug war
July 7 - Security consultant elaborates on "new" Mexican drug war strategy - but is it?
July 5 - Enrique Peña Nieto's Manifesto makes New York Times
June 11 - New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong

Dec. 8 - Extreme narco violence marks Enrique Peña Nieto's first week
Dec. 2 - Narcos send Enrique Peña Nieto a message: nothing has changed
Nov. 20 - U.S. State Dept. renews general travel alert for Mexico

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