Mexico's new president outlines nuanced fight against violence

MEXICO CITY Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:16pm EST

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers a speech during the II Extraodinary Session of the National Council of Public Security in Mexico City December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers a speech during the II Extraodinary Session of the National Council of Public Security in Mexico City December 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's new president on Monday unveiled his strategy to curb drug-related violence that blighted the rule of his predecessor, announcing special units to combat kidnapping and extortion and promising to focus more on crime prevention.

Enrique Pena Nieto took office on December 1 pledging to restore stability to Mexico, which has been battered by brutal turf wars between drug cartels and their clashes with security forces.

More than 60,000 people died in the bloodletting under former president Felipe Calderon, who became embroiled in an escalating drug war after he sent in the army to bring hot spots to heel upon taking office in late 2006.

Instead of easing, though, the killings rose.

Pena Nieto, 46, said Mexico's struggle over the last six years showed a multipronged approach is needed to get violence off the streets of Latin America's No. 2 economy.

"We're going to plan policy and the institutional changes over the medium and long term, and also every specific decision and operation," the president told a news conference. "Security and justice policy is not going to be focused on reacting."

Pena Nieto said the military would continue to patrol Mexico's streets until a new militarized police, known as a national gendarmerie, was ready to take over.

That force would initially be 10,000 strong - about a quarter of the total the president has previously mentioned. The existing federal police, meanwhile, would have 15 teams dedicated to fighting kidnapping and extortion.

The strategy would put in place five regional centers tailored towards curbing violence, and aims to devote nearly 116 billion pesos ($9 billion) to prevention by giving young people more opportunities.

The plan calls for additional full-day schools and better public spaces, Pena Nieto said.

"It's a more fully articulated vision than that of the previous government," said Javier Oliva, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

"Pena Nieto's government is looking to anticipate events and will try to correct the previous government's mistakes."

Summing up the work that lay ahead, Pena Nieto's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong presented a damning indictment of Calderon's record.

"Spending on security more than doubled and unfortunately crimes went up too," he said, adding that only about "one in 100 crimes" went punished in Mexico between 2006 and 2012.

Kidnapping rose 83 percent over the period, violent robbery by 65 percent and extortion by 40 percent, Osorio Chong said.

Pena Nieto said that modernizing the police, improving coordination between the security services and carrying out ongoing appraisals of law enforcement officials were all crucial elements in his vision of a safer Mexico.

Police and the judiciary are widely seen as corrupt in Mexico, taking payments from drug gangs that often offer them far more money than they make on the job.

Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, which he returned to power after 12 years on the sidelines, ruled Mexico between 1929 and 2000, and many blame it for helping foment corruption. He says the party has left that past behind.

($1 = 12.7639 Mexican pesos) (Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Xavier Briand)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
ZeroZero wrote:
Being that his Minister of the Interior has ties to the Zetas and has been accused repeatedly for corruption, and Pena Nieto was caught handing out cash and having his cronies in the media manipulate the news and the polls how is anyone expected to believe this?!!!

Violence with narco-traffickers will recede though, like in the last PRI administration when the president’s brother Raul (accused of killing his own brother-in-law and caught siphoning public funds to Switzerland) was then called Mr. 10% as he took that percentage for having the pleasure of doing business (peacefully) with narco-thugs.

Does this look like the 14th richest country in the world?!!! Pena Nieto is just another puppet for the peer-reviewed criminal gang that call themselves the Mexican government– I pray for the Mexican people!

Dec 18, 2012 12:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.