Much heralded speech proposes expansion of federal government's role in local security
In Mexico City today the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto vowed to further strip local governmental entities of law enforcement responsibility.
Peña Nieto, who will complete two years in office on Dec. 1, has been under intense pressure to undertake a dramatic change of course with respect to security matters since the kidnapping of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26. Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, a key member of the president's cabinet, reported on Nov. 7 that the students were brutally executed, and laid full responsibility on the former mayor of that town.
Mexico has more than 2,000 municipalities scattered across 31 states and one Federal District (Mexico City). A municipality is the rough equivalent of a U.S. county. Article 115 of Mexico's constitution provides in part that "The federal Executive and the governors of the States shall command the public forces in the municipalities," and that "municipalities shall be invested with judicial personality for all legal purposes." According to Peña Nieto and Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, the most powerful member of the president's team and a former governor of Hidalgo state, those two clauses in Mexico's core law are at the root of its chronic domestic insecurity, by enabling corrupt local officials to forge alliances with drug cartels and organized crime bosses. "Mary of the Angels" and her husband were "brains" behind Iguala executions, kidnappings.
Among 10 proposals which he presented from the National Palace at mid-day, president Peña Nieto said that on Monday he will submit legislation to Mexico's Congress which would enable federal officials to assume full control of municipalities when there is evidence of organized crime infiltration of local governments - a problem which has plagued Guerrero. In extreme cases, federal authorities could entirely dissolve local governing bodies.
Another administration proposal is to replace most county and local police forces with 32 state ones, each of which would have exclusive law enforcement authority in that jurisdiction. The plan would be implemented first in the states of Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Tamaulipas, which are among the most violent in the country. Jalisco, Baja California top Mexico's "Red Alert" list.
One or both of the primary security plans offered today by Peña Nieto may require constitutional amendments, specifically with respect to Article 115.
In less than two weeks the beleaguered PRI administration has done a dramatic about-face on the issue of local security responsibilities. On Nov. 14 Osorio Chong, who speaks authoritatively for Peña Nieto, emphasized that "counties and states must carry out their own legal responsibilities, which the federal government cannot replace." Today the president has plainly abandoned that approach in favor of a federalization strategy, at least in those jurisdictions which present endemic and until now unresolved security challenges.
On Oct. 29 Mexico ended a six year police trustworthiness verification program which was launched by the previous presidential administration in January 2009. About 450,000 federal, state and local officers were subjected to polygraphs, background investigations and law enforcement aptitude and preparedness tests. After numerous extensions the vetting process is now over, but the results have plainly been far less than hoped for by the government. Zacatecas will fire almost half of its 2,000 state and local officers.
Dec. 8 - Peña Nieto wins support on security plan debate from all three major political parties
Dec. 2 - Peña Nieto sends proposed constitutional amendments to Mexico's Congress
Oct. 6 - Iguala student protesters were killed by cartel executioners, aided by corrupt police
© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.