Monday, August 18, 2014

Mexico's scaled back National Gendarmerie debuts

Guadalajara -
The day after he was elected on July 1, 2012, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) president Enrique Peña Nieto told the New York Times in an op-ed piece that "There can be neither negotiation nor a truce with criminals." He promised that one of his first acts as chief executive of the Republic would be to create out of whole cloth a 40,000 strong national gendarmerie modeled after those used in some European nations, and most notably, Colombia's. Enrique Peña Nieto's Manifesto.

The announcement must have, or should have, astounded many in the mainstream press (especially in the U.S.), most of whom predicted that the young president would pull armed paramilitary units off the street, if indeed not abandon his predecessor's contorversial drug war altogether (now in its 92nd month). They completely misread EPN. The New York Times finally figures it out: in Mexican drug war, Enrique Peña Nieto = Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

The gendarmerie plan undoubtedly received considerable impetus from Peña Nieto's special security adviser, Colombian General Óscar Naranjo, a man chosen by the new administration because of his years of experience fighting violent cocaine cartels in his own country. But Naranjo's much promoted "new techniques" designed to take on Mexico's 60-80 drug cartels left many wondering how they materially differed from Calderón's approach. Security consultant elaborates on "new" Mexican drug war strategy - but is it? Narango quietly left his post and returned to Colombia in January, officially for unrelated reasons. Peña Nieto's top domestic security adviser resigns.

Nonetheless, only seven days after being sworn in on Dec. 1, 2012, the president pressed ahead. Peña Nieto proceeds with plans for national gendarmerie, asks Mexico's congress for $116 million dollars funding. The elite force, in theory, will eventually number 40,000, and is being drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of current or former military personnel, trained by Colombian, Chilean, French and Spanish security consultants. But its arrival has been delayed several times. Last year the administration announced that the initial contingents would number 10,000, but later reduced that estimate to only 5,000, with a special public inauguration ceremony scheduled for July 2014. Officials announce delay in arrival of federal gendarmerie units.

New Gendarmerie members, whose average age is 28, will receive a net salary of 14,000 pesos a month - $1,076 USD. Of 150,000 initial applicants, only 5,000 made the cut for the elite corps.

Over the weekend the government said the gendarmerie's 5,000 vanguard will take up its first duties on Aug. 22, but with little fanfare. The units will not be assigned not to rural patrol in remote regions with little reliable law enforcement presence - their ostensible purpose according to announcements two years ago - but to the State of Mexico, just beyond the Federal District's city limits. That may be welcome news to local residents. Edomex is one of the nation's most violent crime zones.

Meanwhile, the president says Mexico's security is improving dramatically.

Sept. 2, 2014 - Mexico's Gendarmería Nacional takes up duty in Jalisco
May 14, 2014 - Manuel López Obrador: "Peña Nieto is the new Calderón"
Dec. 19, 2012 - The violent drug war in Mexico's remote countryside

Gen. Óscar Naranjo
Mar. 6, 2013 - Peña Nieto's drug war czar says no to Mexican militias
Oct. 8, 2012 - Peña Nieto's Colombian drug war consultant is a U.S. informant, Mexican journal claims, with orders to cut a deal with cartel bosses

© 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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