Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mexican senators seek another delay in police vetting

*Updated Oct. 17 - proposal clears the full senate almost unopposed*
Leaders of Mexico's three main political parties plan to introduce legislation today to again push back the deadline for completion of trustworthiness and competency certifications of the nation's 450,000 local, state and federal police officers.

The process, a linchpin of the drug war strategy implemented by former president Felipe Calderón, began in January 2009 and was supposed to end on Jan. 3, 2013. But local officials were far from finishing, so the federal congress moved the deadline to Oct. 29. Mexico extends time to weed out corrupt local cops.

Last week president Enrique Peña Nieto's chief cabinet officer, Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, said that almost a third of police officers, primarily at the state and local level, have not completed polygraph, background and other fitness for service tests. Legislators said today they will seek an additional year's postponement.

On Mar. 28 Mexico's lower legislative body, the Cámara de Diputados, was told that only 40% of the country's 32 jurisdictions had completed mandatory evaluations. Confidence checks for local police forces still far behind schedule in 60% of Mexican states.

In nine jurisdictions less than half of state and local police had passed confidence exams by the same date: Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Durango, State of México, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Tabasco and Yucatán.

In the states of Chihuahua and Quintana Roo - both among the most violent in the nation - 80% or more of local officers had not been verified as trustworthy by the end of February. Mexican Army commander: Cancún police department infiltrated by narcotics traffickers and organized crime.

In August suburban Guadalajara (Zapopan) said it was trying to fill hundreds of vacancies on several municipal forces. About 30% of existing officers had failed confidence examinations, but most were retained in administrative positions. Only those who tested positive for drug usage were dismissed. As deadline looms for completion of police background checks, many fail to measure up.

And last week 13 Federal Police officers were arrested in Acapulco, charged with being on the payroll of cartels and organized crime gangs which specialize in kidnapping for ransom and contract killings.

Mexico's 82 month old drug war began in December 2006, when Calderón took on an estimated six dozen cartels which had operated with impunity for decades under previous administrations, most of them of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Struggle against drug cartels and organized crime will be his legacy, Felipe Calderón says. A key component of the former PAN president's strategy was the replacement of corrupt local police with federal troops. Thank God for the Mexican Army.

President Peña Nieto is following an almost identical strategy, despite many claims during Mexico's 2012 political campaign that he would replace it with some other unspecified tactic. New York Times finally figures it out: in drug war, Enrique Peña Nieto = Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. Most of the press and not a few voters believed PRI's "new strategy" claims. Mexican voters got suckered on drug war.

President Peña Nieto has announced that he'll expand Mexico's Federal Police - who are also subject to confidence checks - by some 35,000, and will create a national gendarmerie of 40,000 paramilitary units. The latter will be modeled after Colombia's and those used in several European countries. The new gendarmerie is expected to beef up security in rural areas which have been particularly hard hit by drug trafficking and organized crime. But it won't make its debut until July 2014. Officials announce delay in arrival of federal gendarmerie units.

Accompanied by Osorio Chong and high ranking administration officials, Peña Nieto told a forum in the Federal District this morning that domestic security remains his government's "highest priority." Mexico needs a "real renovation of its police forces, the most important link in public security," the president said. Mexico admits 52 daily drug war deaths in Enrique Peña Nieto administration.

So many communities in Mexico are today without well trained and reliable police forces that illegal citizen militias have replaced them, leading to allegations that some autodefensas are affiliated with drug traffickers and organized crime. Mexico's troublesome policías comunitarias. In a freedom of information demand filed recently against the PRI government's national security department, officials answered by claiming they have no idea how many citizen police are operating in the country. Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states.

Oct. 16 - Guadalajara's police force could be slashed in two weeks

Oct. 17 - By an overwhelming margin of 83-1, with multipartisan support, the full senate today voted to extend the police evaluation deadline for one year. Had they not done so, 190,000 federal, state and local officers who have not yet been subjected to background checks and confidence testing would have been automatically dismissed by the end of this month. The bill now moves to the lower house, Mexico's chamber of deputies.

Oct. 22 - Confianza ciudadana en la policía, vital para combatir el delito

Oct. 10 - Spain again warns its citizens about dangers of Mexico
Feb. 10 - Mexican marines arrest chief executioner for El Chapo Guzmán in Sinaloa state

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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