02/13/12 – For the first time ever in Mexico, a woman holds the title of Federal Chief of Police (Policía Federal, PF), an announcement that follows the previous appointments of two other females to high ranking positions in Mexico within the past year. Named on February 10, 2012, Maribel Cervantes Guerrero (41) replaced former chief of police Facundo Rosas Rosas, who held the role since 2009. Rosas Rosas was allegedly sent back to serving as an undersecretary in the Ministry of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), a position he had before becoming chief of police. Although the SSP did not further elaborate on Rosas Rosas’ removal earlier this week, news source Milenio did highlight that the Federal Police has been the target of late of the National Commission of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH), which has argued that members of the PF –along with the Mexican military– have violated human rights as part of its struggle to quell drug-related violence and drug trafficking.
According to the Mexican government and as stated in the new Federal Police Law (Ley de la Policía Federal), as head of the Federal Police, Cervantes Guerrero is tasked with the responsibility of “overseeing and implementing the Federal Government’s strategy to prevent and combat federal crime throughout the country.” The government’s current public security strategy has been highly criticized during President Felipe Calderón’s time in office, as more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence (ejecuciones) since 2006. Cervantes comes to the position with significant experience and training, and with the hopes of addressing the dire public security situation. She previously served as the director of the Intelligence Division (Titular de la División de Inteligencia) where she “was responsible for establishing cooperation, training, and exchange of information with the Police Community of the Americas (AMERIPOL) and with the European Police Office (EUROPOL),” emphasized the SSP. Among other positions, Cervantes also spent time with the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN) and was later named as the Technical Secretary of Intelligence Coordination for Prevention (Secretaría Técnica de la Coordinación de Inteligencia para la Prevención) within the Federal Preventative Police (Policía Federal Preventativa, PFP). She graduated from the Universidad del Valle de México with her degree in Communication Sciences, and then received her Masters in Military Administration from the military’s Universidad del Ejército y Fuerzas Aérea.
Cervantes Guerrero’s appointment to chief of Federal Police came but one week after Mexico saw the nomination of the first woman candidate for president by a major national party. On February 5, Josefina Vázquez Mota won the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) primaries for the upcoming July 2012 presidential election with almost 54% of the votes, nearly 15% higher than the runner up, Ernesto Cordero. Following the win, Vázquez Mota confidently claimed, “I will be the next president of Mexico,” despite her party (PAN) trailing in the polls to election favorite Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) by nearly 16 points. Nevertheless, the PRI’s lead has narrowed from a 25-point gap it once enjoyed, according to a Consulta Mitofsky poll, as reported in Informador. Riding the momentum of her victory and the closing window between the PAN and PRI, albeit still at a 16 point difference with Peña Nieto at 40% and Vázquez Mota at 24%, the new PAN nominee exclaimed, “This is the moment of [PAN] reunification. Together we will see the first female president of Mexico.”
Finally, it has been almost a year since the first female federal attorney general was appointed in Mexico. In April 2011, Marisela Morales Ibáñez assumed the role of Attorney General (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) and has since made headlines with the PGR’s tough and aggressive stance on drug trafficking and drug-related violence, in general, and in particular with the purge of 21 top federal prosecutors in August 2011, and the extradition of the notorious and high-ranking cartel leader, Benjamin Arellano Félix, in May 2011. Arellano Félix pled guilty to his charges in January of this year. Read more about his case here.