Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mexico' s anti-kidnapping plan: long on speeches, short on specifics

*Updated Mar. 7*
Guadalajara -
Mexico, the 2013 world leader in kidnappings, has announced a package of strategies to combat a crime which has spread at alarming proportions since the PRI government of president Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1, 2012. Figuring out exactly what they are will defy even the most focused analysis.

For 90 minutes today top administration officials took the stage in a national press conference called "Stop Kidnapping." Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, the second most powerful man in the government, delivered up a list of ultra general bullet points, while attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam digressed into a flowery discourse on how Mexico is committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights. But on the topic at hand both speeches left one asking, "where's the beef?"

To be sure, a new National Anti-Kidnapping Commission was created, and its chief officer, a ranking federal bureaucrat, was named. There was much predictable talk about the need to "prevent, punish and wipe out" kidnapping as quickly as possible - a restatement of the obvious - as well as the need for "coordination, cooperation and reevaluation of federal and state law enforcement systems." But exactly how all that is going to translate into fewer kidnappings on the street, no one offered a clue.

The Peña Nieto administration said its new strategy - whatever it is - will focus on the 10 states most plagued by the crime: Durango, México, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. The government says 74% of kidnappings occur in those states, although it also claims that citizens have so little confidence in police and courts that less than one in 10 of all kidnappings nationwide are even reported. Maybe that's because of cases like this one.

Five days before Christmas the president publicly acknowledged Mexico has a serious problem with kidnapping, and said he had instructed Osorio Chong to come up with specific strategies to counter the crime by January. The secretary of government met his deadline, but whether the "plan" is more than mere puff is far from clear. It would seem to be lacking in critical details, despite plenty of time to put a credible proposal on the table.

Peña Nieto didn't have to endure his cabinet's thin-on-content presentation today. He's in Havana for a Latin American summit. But he must have in mind the very pointed questions he was asked in Davos, Switzerland last week at the 2014 World Economic Forum, where officials repeatedly queried, "Now Mr. President, it seems that Mexico is still plagued by issues of security, is it not?" Peña Nieto and his top ministers understand that foreign capital investment and desperately needed economic growth march in firm lockstep with public safety, and the latter yet remains far from assured in many regions.

Mar. 7 - Kidnappings in Mexico rose 24% in 2013, the new commissioner announced today - and those are only the ones which were reported to law enforcement.
Apr. 21 - Mexican Senate passes kidnapping penalty of 140 years

Dec. 30 - El secuestro y la extorsión superan al plan de seguridad del gobierno
Dec. 16 - Kidnappings surged 33% in Mexico in 2013
Dec. 12 - Mexican domestic security evaluation on the way, says top PRI government official
Oct. 10 - Virtual kidnappings plague Mexico
Feb. 4 - Crime with "impunity" still the norm in much of Mexico

Oct. 23 - Crime gangs which are replacing drug cartels will be difficult to track and fight
Jun. 22 - Mexican drug cartels will likely morph into "super gangs," says U.S. security firm

© MGR 2014. 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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