President Peña Nieto begins third term with anti-crime announcement

Thursday’s announcement of a nation-wide anti-crime crackdown will see all police put under control of the state. The new plan will allow Congress to dissolve the local governments infiltrated by drug gangs and give the state control over the often-corrupt municipal police.

The announcement came two months after 43 college students and teachers disappeared in the city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero. The students and teachers were allegedly killed and incinerated by a drug gang said to be working with the local police and extended politicians.

Peña Nieto said his plan was influenced by the Iguala tragedy, saying its, “cruelty and barbarity have shocked Mexico.” He said the new plan was announced to combat violence and ensure justice and security, but that it’s a “really challenging route. Mexico cannot go on like this. After Iguala, Mexico must change.”

The new plan will focus on four of Mexico’s most problematic states — Guerrero, Michoacan, Jalisco and Tamaulipas. Other security forces, including federal police, will be sent to the “hot land” region which overlaps the first two states where the government had already sent a significant amount of police and soldiers.

Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope said, “My response to the police operation in the ’hot lands’ is: ’What? Another one?’”, referring to other previous anti-crime plans. “The same as the others, for a limited time and without the right conditions?”

The President’s new plan will strip about 1,800 police forces of their powers while handing control over to the states. The plan would also help ease the complex divisions of how federal, state and local offence levels are dealt with. As it stands now, some police outright refuse to act to prevent certain federal crimes such as drug trafficking.

Some of the proposed reforms will require constitutional changes, which are expected to be presented in upcoming weeks. Presidential chief of staff Aurelio Nuno said that within a year and a half the municipal police forces in the four problematic states would be completely gone, replaced with state police under a clear command structure.

He says, “What this case of Iguala has shown the government and I believe all of Mexican society, in a brutal and overwhelming way, is the level of weakness that exists especially in this part of the country in terms of security, justice and the rule of law.”

Similar anti-crime plans have been tried in the past, specifically in 2004 and 2008. While the plans did bring some improvements, it failed to prevent municipal police from being corrupted by gangs. It’s for this reason many Mexicans are skeptical of the recent announcement.

Although Peña Nieto has spent his first two years concentrating on economic and legal reforms, this recent announcement acknowledges that the drug-gang violence that dominated his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, is unavoidable.