11/30/14 (written by cmolzahn) — Following the disappearance and apparent murder of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero in late September by a local drug gang and the widespread protests that have followed, President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday, November 27 announced a new security plan that would include dissolving the country’s municipal police forces and place them under state control. Peña Nieto acknowledged that his proposal was influenced by the incident in Iguala, where the criminals responsible were allegedly working in concert with the local municipal police. “After Iguala, Mexico must change,” he said. “As a Mexican, I join in the cry for justice.” As for the proposed restructuring of the nation’s local police, it “will be qualitative change moving from 1,800 municipal police [forces] to 32 solid, state corporations.” This was the third point in a ten-point law and order and justice plan that also includes measures to create new special economic zones to stimulate economic growth in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca.
According to data released this month by the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), 11 Mexican states found irregularities ranging from inclination to use of drugs, or to tell lies to collusion with organized crime in 20% or more of the vetting exams given to municipal police between 2010 and 2014. With the SNSP reporting that 100% of municipal police forces in Mexico have received the vetting exams, Veracruz has the highest level of irregularities, with 45%. Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, and Guerrero follow, with 41%, 40%, and 30%, respectively. The others with levels above 20% were Nayarit, San Luis Potosí, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Morelos. Gustavo López Montiel, who studies police at the Technological University of Monterrey (Tecnológico de Monterrey), pointed out to La Crónica de Hoy that while Mexico has strengthened its federal and state forces in recent years, the same has not happened in the municipal level, which “are easily absorbed by crime and represent a fundamental cog in the success of criminal groups.” He pointed out that in other countries with stronger local police forces, officers receive at least four years of training, while in Mexico one to two months is common, and the best case is eight. Regarding the vetting exams, he said that they are necessary for measuring the quality of the nation’s police forces, but they do not indicate where those failing the exams are now, and whether they are able to apply for positions in other municipalities.
Under Peña Nieto’s proposal, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas would be the first to adopt the unified police model, and mayors not relinquishing control would face sanctions, as would governors not assuming control over municipalities in their respective states. It would involve legislation from the Mexican Congress to give the federal government more authority to take over control of municipal services or, if deemed necessary, dissolve a local government if deemed to be infiltrated by organized crime. In addition, the proposal includes the following recommendations.
- Consideration for adopting a universal emergency number—likely 911 due to its prevalence worldwide—something that Mexican authorities have suggested for some time.
- Assigning a universal identification number to each Mexican citizen, which would be used to access public services, as well as the banking system.
- An increased deployment to regions of Guerrero, Michoacán, Jalisco, and Tamaulipas that remain impacted by organized crime activity.
- Passing reforms that would increase attention to human rights and improve everyday justice functions.
- Fast-tracking laws addressing issues of torture and forced disappearances.
- Approval of laws to combat corruption.
- The creation of a public source of information about service providers and contractors
Peña Nieto’s proposal has had mixed reviews in Mexico since the announcement, the most common criticism being that it does not go far enough to address longstanding problems. Representing the entities that will be the most directly impacted, Secretary General of the National Federation of Municipalities of Mexico (Federación Nacional de Municipios de México) Sergio Enrique Arredondo Olvera praised the proposal, given that many municipalities are overrun by organized crime. He added that the municipalities do not have sufficient resources for combating organized crime, and that municipal police officers earning less than $7,000 pesos per month (around $500 USD) are easily attracted to colluding with criminals. Meanwhile, though, Jorge Herrera Caldera, president of the National Conference of Governors (Conferencia Nacional de Gobernadores, Conago), while supporting the proposal, said that states would require more resources from the federal government in order to take measures such as standardizing salaries necessary for successfully implementing the proposed unified police commands.
In the Mexican Congress, Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) has predictably come out in support of the proposed reforms, announcing that it would supplement it with additional measures for discussion, while the opposition National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) has been more critical. PRI Deputy Manlio Fabio Beltrones has said that the proposal would be a priority for his party when it is formally presented on Monday, December 1, saying that it is a key step in creating professional state police agencies capable of serving the public and in providing access to justice for Mexican citizens. Meanwhile, the PAN in the Chamber of Deputies has criticized the proposed reforms, saying that it is adherence to existing laws and not the creation of new ones that is needed, and that Peña Nieto’s proposal does not adequately address the need to punish corruption.