Sunday, May 27, 2012



Note: "says his top security priority will not be arresting the
leaders of the organizations that move hundreds of millions of
dollars of narcotics each year into the United States." It will be
interesting if PRI regains presidency, who becomes the junior partner
this time. The drug cartels, or the PRI.

Mexico's presidential front-runner promises to cut violence
May 25, 2012 7:48 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Shortly after sunrise last month in the border
city of Nuevo Laredo, police found 14 butchered bodies in a van
outside city hall, a salvo in a seesawing battle of horrors between
Mexico's two most powerful drug cartels.

Soon after, nine people were hanged from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo.
Fourteen heads were left in coolers outside city hall. Eighteen
mutilated bodies were dumped by a scenic lake in western Mexico. The
decapitated bodies of 49 people were dumped outside a small town 75
miles from the U.S. border.

The man who appears likely to become Mexico's next president says he
can ease the waves of violence consuming the country by changing the
focus of its six-year offensive against organized crime.

Mexico's current administration has targeted the top ranks of the
country's drug cartels, deploying thousands of troops to capture
crime kingpins and seize their drugs and weapons, often in close
coordination with the U.S. It is not uncommon for President Felipe
Calderon's administration to boast of its success in arresting many
of the country's most-wanted men.

Enrique Pena Nieto, who has a double-digit lead five weeks before the
July 1 election, says his top security priority will not be arresting
the leaders of the organizations that move hundreds of millions of
dollars of narcotics each year into the United States. Instead, he
and his advisers say, they will focus the government's resources on
reducing homicide, kidnapping and extortion — the crimes that do the
most damage to the greatest number of Mexicans — by flooding police
and troops into towns and cities with the highest rates of violent

"This doesn't mean that we don't pay attention to other crimes, or
that we don't fight drug trafficking, but the central theme at this
time is diminishing violence in the country," Pena Nieto told The
Associated Press in a recent interview.

Pena Nieto's campaign said drug cartels could still be attacked,
particularly if they carry out murders, kidnappings and extortion,
but arresting their leaders will no longer be the focus of government

"Each administration chooses its operational objectives, and the
objective per se is not the extradition or capture of big bosses, or
the burning of seized drugs," Pena Nieto's campaign coordinator, Luis
Videgaray, told the AP.

Some observers say that a strategy to reduce violence above all else
could mean that drug dealers who conduct their businesses discreetly
will be quietly left alone.

"I think that it's very clear that he's moving in the direction of
concentrating the resources that the federal state has (toward)
fighting crime and violence that affect people in Mexico ... as
opposed to concentrating the resources on combating drug
trafficking," said Former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda. ""If you
have scarce resources and you're focusing them on A, you're not
focusing them on B."

Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, known by its Spanish
initials as the PRI, ruled Mexico for 70 years until it lost the
presidency in 2000, and high-ranking party figures and their
relatives were often accused of striking deals with cartels in
exchange for political protection. Violence was far lower, in large
part because cartels maintained uncontested control of smuggling
routes in many parts of the country.

Opponents have been quick to say that Pena Nieto will go back to the
old PRI model of cutting a deal with cartels.

"They've shown themselves to be absolutely tolerant of organized
crime," said Josefina Vazquez Mota told Spanish newspaper El Pais in
a recent interview. Vazquez Mota is running on the presidential
ticket for the National Action Party.

With Mexicans expressing strong support in polls for a militarized
confrontation with crime, Pena Nieto is promising continuity in key
aspects of Mexico's U.S.-backed drug war.

He has rejected legalization, called for more cooperation with
Washington and praised Calderon's decision to confront the cartels
shortly after taking office. On the campaign trail, Pena Nieto has
been emphasizing his plans to maintain or increase the military
presence in violence-torn cities like Monterrey and Veracruz.

He has pledged an increase in the number of federal police officers
from 36,000 to 50,000, and is also proposing a new semi-military
police force composed of former soldiers and marines under civilian
command that would be deployed to the towns and cities suffering from
the highest violence and weakest policing.

But those pledges imply a subtle but potentially important change.

Pena Nieto's new approach "would not stop fighting the drug cartels
but it would shift from targeting the heads of the cartels," campaign
spokesman Diego Gomez said. "What Calderon has been doing is just
targeting a few main cartels and splitting them up and what you have
is chaos."

All three major Mexican presidential candidates have been criticized
for vagueness of their proposals on conducting the war against crime,
and many observers have remarked upon the absence of debate about the
direction of the country's security policy.

Vazquez Mota has been vocally supportive of her party's current
policy, pledging to expand the federal police to 150,000, a roughly
four-fold increase over current numbers. Fellow backers of the
current U.S. Mexican strategy argue that the attack on cartels is
showing results, with crime groups weakened by Calderon's six-year
offensive, and preliminary and unofficial statistics showing signs of
violent crimes beginning to wane in some parts of the country.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has placed more emphasis on
withdrawing back the military from the streets, fighting corruption
among government officials and reducing crime by reducing social

A change in approach would align Pena Nieto with a new strain of
thinking in public-policy circles in Mexico and the United States
that calls for making violence the overwhelming focus of law-
enforcement activity in the drug war, deemphasizing narcotics
trafficking and other crimes.

"I and other people have been advocating for a strategy that focuses
on reduction in violence," said Eric Olson, who oversees studies of
U.S.-Mexico security cooperation and research on organized crime and
drug trafficking at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Olson acknowledged that the focus on violence could mean relenting in
operations against cartels that use less violence than their rivals,
but he called that a necessary and temporary letup in order to get a
handle on Mexico's biggest problem, the violence that is terrorizing
the population and undermining the legitimacy of the state.

"Crime will always exist. The question is can you make it less
harmful and get it out of people's lives as much as possible," he
said. "It's not a de facto negotiation with them. It's a question of
what comes first."

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