The president-elect of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, said on Tuesday that he is planning to continue the efforts of President Felipe Calderón’s fight against the drug gangs in the country. Nieto also said that he would use a long-term strategy to put the battle in the hands of the civilians instead of the military. Nieto is from the Institutional Revolutionary Party and he praised the efforts of Calderon against organized crime. Calderon created a federal police force and increased cooperation with the United States. Nieto also said that Colombia could offer valuable lessons when it comes to fighting organized crime.
The efforts by Calderon included sending 45,000 troops to states across Mexico to fight drug gangs. Multiple drug lords were arrested but Calderon was not able to end a civil war amongst drug gangs that has claimed over 55,000 lives over the past six years.
Nieto will take power in December and said that he is going to make the reduction of violence his focal point. This announcement led to worry in Washington that he will reduce efforts against seizing drug shipments and arresting top cartel leaders. Some in Mexico began to worry that Nieto would strike deals with drug gangs to reduce violence in exchange for turning a blind eye to drug shipments. Nieto said that he absolutely opposes such an idea.
Nieto informed the country that he would be keeping the federal police force of Calderon and turn it into the central weapon against drug gangs. He said he would expand it to 50,000 officers from the current size of 35,000 officers.
“It would be a separate corps [from the federal police]” that would “help towns with small populations, the places where organized crime can hide.”
Nieto also made it known that he wants the country to have a stronger relationship with the United States when it comes to fighting crime.
“Many kingpins and bosses have been caught because of collaboration with the U.S.,” he said. “We do not just want to maintain our relationship [with the U.S.], we want to expand it.”
Nieto said that he will be taking pointers from Colombia when it comes to dealing with the United States and fighting drug lords.
“The experience they can give to us would be important,” he said. “Colombia’s circumstances are different than ours, but a good reference to succeeding in fighting insecurity.” Nieto gave high praise to his new security advisor, the former Colombian police chief Gen. Óscar Naranjo. Nieto described him as “the best policeman in the world.”