Security and Rule of Law

President Felipe Calderón’s fight against organized crime has become increasingly unpopular among Mexicans. Citizens see violence levels rising, feel more and more insecure, and have become more vocal and active in their opposition to the violence. The presidential candidates will take this into consideration as they campaign and their rhetoric will likely reflect the growing public discontent. The question is, though, what will the next government actually do differently?

Check this page for a continually updated list of news and analysis on the subject.

News and Analysis

  • 6/18/2012: The Financial Times on the recent drop in drug-related crimes
  • 6/18/2012: Newsweek on the role of the military in security policy:
[…] A less-publicized and equally important story is that of the military generals spearheading the fight, the men who have led the charge against the ruthless, well-armed narcos who seem hellbent on reducing Mexico to a failed state. These are the men who have worked alongside the DEA and the U.S. military, the men who are responsible for drug seizures and arrests, and unfortunately, human-rights violations. These are the men to whom Mexicans repeatedly turn for security, then lambast when the situation fails to improve. Ahead of the July presidential elections, the public and all three of the leading candidates are calling for the Army to return to its barracks, and to push through police reforms that would enable some 50,000 soldiers to take a backseat role in the drug fight.
  • 6/15/2012: Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) taps Colombian drug war veteran for his security team
  • 6/13/2012: President Felipe Calderón (PAN) says violence from the fight against organized crime has slowed:

Mexico’s drug-related murders fell about 12% during the first five months of this year, President Felipe Calderón said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week. That marks the first decline in violence in at least eight years.

1. Eliminate the root cause of criminality
2. Reform the judicial process
3. Professionalize our police forces
4. National security, not diplomatic discourse
5. Joint border partnership with US and Canada
  • 5/29/2012: Families of drug war victims criticize the presidential candidates and demand more done to lower violence levels
  • 5/17/2012: In USA Today, special contributor David Agren argues that the presidential candidates are “mostly mute” on fight against organized crime:

The discovery of 49 decapitated bodies on a highway leading to the U.S.border would seem like the time for Mexico’s presidential candidates to denounce the drug cartels and say how they will stop them. But none of the four candidates issued statements on the tragedy or posted comments on their Twitter accounts.The reason for the silence, say political observers here, is no one has an answer for the violence.

Vázquez Mota reiteró su posición de que no pactaría con las agrupaciones criminales, “porque yo no voy a rendir a las familias mexicanas ante quienes secuestran, extorsionan, asesinan”.Aseguró que en sus recorridos por el país, “las familias piden que no se vayan las Fuerzas Armadas, porque si se van se sienten desprotegidas”.
  • 4/22/2012: PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador focuses on security during a visit to Monterrey , promising a visit every two weeks with his security cabinet if elected to check on the security situation. 
  • 3/5/2012: U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden hears reassuring messages from the three main presidential candidates about continued security cooperation between Mexico and the United States. From “The Week in Review:” 

 According to Mexico Institute Director Andrew Selee, there is an “underlying nervousness in the Obama administration about whether a new Mexican president would change the close collaboration between the governments.” After his private meetings with each candidate, Biden suggested that a new president would not dramatically alter the collaboration.According to The Associated Press:

 “When asked whether he had sensed any significant differences among the candidates with regards to cooperation with the United States, Biden answered simply, ‘No.’

‘I’m not being flip, but no,’ he said.”

  • 2/27/2012: The Mexico Institute’s Katie Putnam looks at the lack of detailed security proposals from the main candidates in “The Week in Review” (follow the link to read more): 

The [presidential] candidates have offered few concrete proposals, The Washington Post reports; instead, all have beenvague” about their intended strategies. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD), the most specific of the candidates, has suggested a greater emphasis on the social ills underlying the violence; he has also called for the army to return to its barracks within six months. Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) too has proposed gradually pulling troops off the streets (no timeline yet), yet has not gone much beyond criticizing Calderón for not having a “clear diagnosis” before launching his offensive against the cartels. The subject is perhaps most difficult for Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN), who must balance celebrating Calderón’s inroads against organized crime while distancing herself in part from the unpopular strategy: she has called for life imprisonment for politicians and public officials caught working for the cartels.

It seems that while Mexicans are outraged about the drug war violence that has claimed upwards of 50,000 lives since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006, public frustration has “not translated into a substantive policy debate about how to change course” (The Washington Post).

  • 2/2/2012: The Mexico Institute’s Diana Murray Watts and Eric L. Olson assess the PAN candidates’ positions on security:

In our estimation, candidates were typically long on emphasizing the importance of an issue but short on specific proposals for addressing the challenges posed by crime and violence. As for last Tuesday’s debate, the candidates did not enter into a deeper discussion about the issues of major concern to Mexicans, and consequently missed an opportunity to put forward creative ideas and solutions.

  • 10/11/2011: In a speech at the Mexico Institute, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) calls on the United States and Mexico to de-militarize the bilateral agenda and refocus efforts on long-term development aid:
Cooperation for development is more effective and humane than the emphasis on military assistance, intelligence services and armaments.

“En primer lugar una Secretaría del Interior que agrupe lo que hoy está disperso, lo que hoy está manejado por muchas secretarías”. Agregó que otro cambio de fondo sería, crear una DEA mexicana, una instancia especial y especializada que combata al crimen organizado que hoy no tenemos, “ese combate lo hacen de manera alternativa el Ejército, la Marina, la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, la Policía Federal Aduanas, Migración, Cisen, PGR con el acompañamiento a veces con los procuradores estatales, no, yo creo que así las cosas no funcionan con la eficacia que nosotros quisiéramos ver”.

  • 9/27/2011: Enrique Peña Nieto addresses The Economist’s criticisms of the crime statistics from his time as governor. In his last state of the state address, or informe, Peña Nieto claimed that the murder rate in the State of Mexico had fallen by more than half during his six-year term. The Economist refuted the data: ”the numbers listed in Mr Peña’sinforme are indeed the official figures, but they make no mention of a statistical revision in 2007 which saw the murder rate halve overnight.” To his credit, Peña Nieto acknowledged the inconsistency:

“The figures underwent a methodological modification in 2007. The criticism that The Economist makes is that it is technically inconsistent to compare figures derived using different methodologies. I share this view. In a democratic society, we politicians have to accept criticism, especially when it is founded.”

  • 9/26/2011: In a new poll, the public reaffirms its commitment to the fight against organized crime: 70 percent of respondents polled in an extensive survey of 7,400 citizens are in favor of continuing the fight. Unfortunately for President Felipe Calderón and the PAN, only 26 percent believe that the Calderón administration is winning that battle.
  • 8/31/2011: Less than  less than half of Mexicans said the Calderón administration was progressing in its fight against organized crime; one-third said it was losing ground, according to a Pew Global Attitudes poll. The Mexico Institute’s Eric Olson notes:

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the results of the Pew poll and other polls are bad news for the Calderón government and for his party in the lead up to next year’s presidential election. It is clear in this poll that there is declining faith in the government’s ability to confront the problem of crime and violence.  To the extent the 2012 election becomes a referendum on the Calderón government’s security policies, the news in this poll is not good for the PAN party.”

  • Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI): “Es insostenible siquiera, no sólo para el nuestro, sino para cualquier partido que tuviera por propuesta llegar a acuerdos con el crimen organizado”.
  • Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD): “en el caso de la delincuencia organizada y el narcotráfico, primero hay que crear una atmósfera distinta, de progreso y bienestar, es echar a andar la economía y generar empleo, crear un ambiente diferente”.
  • Santiago Creel (PAN): “la ruta no es ni bajar la guardia, ni pactar con el crimen organizado, si no es otra, lo que estoy formulando es el complemento con esa ruta con una nueva visión…Es algo muy distinto, además en esta lucha no hay que disparar un solo tiro para congelar una cuenta bancaria, incautar un negocio y también cualitativamente y sustantivamente es algo muy distinto”.

Viewed as a whole, the increasing political skepticism [of the fight against organized crime in Mexico] (combined with pressures to cut budgets in the U.S. congress) bodes a much heavier lift for continued and deepening cooperation. As both countries go into Presidential elections, these critiques will likely only increase. Much of this questioning is important. All these policies will have long term ramifications for both Mexico and the United States, and as such should be analyzed and debated. But the trick will be to keep these necessary discussions from derailing the relationship and eroding the trust that the two countries built over the past four years, taking us all back to square one.

  • 6/27/2011: According to a new poll, the approval rate of the fight against organized crime in Mexico increased from 48% to 63% after the arrest of “El Chango,” a leader of the La Familia cartel

As the Mexican election approaches, the idea of accommodating the cartels may continue to be presented as a logical alternative to the present policies, and it might be used to gain political capital, but anyone who carefully examines the situation on the ground will see that the concept is totally untenable. In fact, the conditions on the ground leave the Mexican president with very little choice.

  • 6/23/2011: PRD leader Jesús Zambrano criticizes President Felipe Calderón for being “deaf” to civil society calls for a new strategy in the fight against organized crime:
Indicó que en el PRD “entendemos que sólo con la participación de una sociedad organizada que sabe exigir y hacer valer sus derechos podremos avanzar y ganar los espacios públicos que la delincuencia trata de arrebatarnos”.
  • 6/23/2011: Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN) says she would not take “one backwards step” in the fight against crime organizations

En entrevista, la legisladora federal explicó que ante las bandas delincuenciales ni un paso atrás, ni rendición ni claudicación, mucho menos negociación.  Dijo que es necesario mantener estas acciones para dar seguridad a la población y mejorar la calidad de vida de los mexicanos para su mejor desarrollo.

El presidente del Senado mexicano, el priista Manlio Fabio Beltrones, sostuvo que durante el foro las fracciones del PRI, el PAN, el PRD y el PVEM externaron su compromiso de mantener la lucha contra el crimen organizado al margen del desenlace electoral.

“Quedó muy claro por parte de todos los partidos políticos que estuvimos aquí presentes, que gane quien gane las elecciones del 2012 no habrá ninguna posibilidad de dar un paso atrás en la decidida lucha contra la delincuencia y el narcotráfico”, dijo Beltrones a los periodistas. “Se podrán establecer estrategias que disminuyan la violencia y que giren alrededor del uso de más inteligencia y más tecnología, pero de ninguna manera en ceder un milímetro de espacio a la delincuencia en algún acuerdo”, subrayó.

  • 6/12/2011: The PRD issued a statement backing the Citizen’s Pact for Peace, lead by poet-activist Javier Sicilia
  • 6/2/2011: Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) says Mexico needs a new strategy against organized crime (without going into too much detail:

El gobernador del Estado de México, Enrique Peña Nieto, reiteró que es necesario replantear la estrategia contra el crimen organizado, ya que hace falta ser más eficaz y contundente para dar los resultados que demandan los ciudadanos.

  • 5/2011: Duncan Wood, ITAM Professor and senior advisor at CSIS and the Mexico Institute, writes about the likely strategies of each party in the fight against organized crime, and the impact of those on U.S.-Mexico relations:

One might expect a change of direction in security strategies after July 2012, no matter who wins the Mexican presidency. This should alert U.S. policymakers to the need to engage the leading contenders on security cooperation earlier rather than later with a view to understanding their positions and influencing their approaches.

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