One year after federal, state, and local officials held a nationally televised meeting and signed a major security pact, public officials noted their accomplishments while civil society offered a dim assessment of Mexico’s overall security situation.
Last August, the highly publicized kidnapping and murder of Fernando Martí, son of prominent Mexico City businessman Alejandro Martí, led civic groups to call for a national conversation on public security in Mexico. With urging from Mexico United Against Crime (México Unido Contra la Delincuencia), representatives from all three federal branches of government, as well as state public security authorities, met on August 21, 2008 in a televised session to discuss a new 74-point security plan to be implemented over the next 100 days. That pact, the National Agreement for Security, Justice and Legality, included measures such as a new anti-kidnapping law and measures to root out corruption and promote police professionalism. During the televised meeting, Alejandro Martí, the father of the murdered kidnapping victim, urged authorities to work to reduce crime: “If you cannot, resign.”
However, twelve months after the signing of the national pact, Martí observed in Reforma newspaper that it has been a “lost year.” Mexico’s problems of crime and violence continue, while no one has resigned. In a separate interview with the newspaper El Universal, Martí declined to name specific officials, but noted that: “There are many governors, mayors, delegates, police, and public security secretaries that have not made a robust effort to offer security to the citizenry… The best proof is that problems of crime continue in the streets; kidnappings continue. There are no registries for criminals and there continue to be signs of fundamental corruption, such as in the prison system, which is a huge failure.”
Since last year, Martí has formed his own foundation, the System for Monitoring Citizen Security in Mexico, also known by its Spanish acronym, “México SOS.” According to its website, the organization has over 100,000 registered subscribers, and seeks to involve citizens in the monitoring and denunciation of public security problems. Regarding his son’s case, there has been considerable confusion, with federal and Mexico City authorities making two different sets of arrests, while the suspected kingpin of the kidnapping ring —Abel Silva Petriociolet— remains at large (see our July 2009 news report).
Meanwhile, public officials responded to the one-year anniversary of the pact by recounting their efforts to improve public security. In accordance with the pact, in December 2008, the Mexican Congress passed measures to advance a new anti-kidnapping law. However, while this measure was approved by a majority of state legislatures, the legislation was not officially published by President Calderón until May; as a result, the Mexican Congress was unable to produce a new law in the legislative session that ended in late-April.
For his part, President Calderón emphasized the advances that have been made in fighting kidnapping gangs. According to the president, from August 2008 to the end of July 2009, the federal government arrested members of nearly 70 different kidnapping gangs, including members of the groups known as Los Tiras, Los Rojos, and Los Petriciolet (whose members were arrested for allegedly perpetrating the Martí kidnapping). Also relevant to the pact, a new law reorganized the country’s federal police agencies in May 2009 (see our June 2009 news report) and, more recently, Mexico replaced its entire customs force (see story below in this month’s report), with both moves intended to professionalize and improve the coordination of Mexican law enforcement.
In response to widespread criticism, Interior Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont urged citizens to offer a “just and serene” assessment of authorities’ efforts, noting that “a general disqualification is unfair… There are no absolutes, there have been important advances and much work remains to be done.” At the same time, the Interior Secretariat released a communication noting that there was a 44% increase in the budget for public security in 2009, including a 15% increase in federal funds transferred to state and local governments. In addition, the government conducted evaluations for more than 19,000 law enforcement personnel, and created a new Integrated National System Against Kidnapping.
While Martí acknowledged some of these and other advances —including laws to confiscate property from criminals and to create a national cell phone registry— he insisted that these measures were “not sufficient.” Other non-governmental organizations were similarly insistent that Mexican authorities must do more and improve their efforts. Mexico United Against Crime presented an evaluation indicating that authorities had only accomplished seven of the points indicated in the pact, and gave authorities low rankings on a scale of one to ten at the federal (5.2), state (3.0), and local (0.9) levels.
Meanwhile, Carlos Mendoza, member of a citizen’s group charged with evaluating the pact, said that none of Mexico’s states had met its obligations to combat kidnapping. Among other things, only 10 anti-kidnapping units were formed during the last year, despite promises in the national security pact, and those that exist are insufficiently equipped to address the problem.
From the Justice in Mexico Project’s August Monthly News Report:
Andrea Merlos, “Critican que Calderón no publique ley antisecuestro,” El Universal. June 4, 2009.
“El secuestro es un asunto de las entidades,” Milenio. July 31, 2009.
Francisco Gómez, “Deben renunciar aquellos que fallaron, reafirma Martí.” El Universal. August 19, 2009.
“Presume Segob logros contra la delincuencia,” Reforma. August 21, 2009.