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New President of Mexico Raises Questions Whether He has a Plan to Fight Drug Gangs
Enrique Peña Nieto’s victory as the new President of Mexico brings concerns not only over how he will represent the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has a history of corruption, but also whether his pledges of fighting down the gangs of drug lords are sincere. Mexico, which is riddled with drug cartels that not only smuggle contrabands in the United States, but also orchestrate countless kidnappings and murders, has made such violence its central campaign issue. And though Nieto has promised to halve the number of kidnappings and murders during his six-year term, his plan for doing so remains ambiguous.
One of his plans is to create a 40,000-member paramilitary police force sent to the areas with most crime. But since this force will be peopled mostly by members of the military, this is viewed as continuing previous president Felipe Calderon’s excessive use of the military to fight the drug cartels. One difference, perhaps, is that this National Gendarmerie will be deployed to rural areas. Nieto plans on focusing more of police effort on fighting kidnappers and murders, and less on drug busts.
This has led some American politicians to criticize the new President’s plan as easing up on the drug trafficking into the states.
Nieto also plans on consolidating Mexico’s thousands of police departments in the 31 states, which have up to now proved incapable of coping with the extent of the crimes. Calderon had made similar promises, which suggest to many that Nieto is keeping the status quo and has no new insights.
“I’m more and more convinced that they don’t really have a blueprint,” said Eric Olson, the association director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
Nevertheless, congressmen Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Laredo, a friend of Nieto, says that “conversations over the weekend with the president-elect, the U.S. ambassador and a Mexican general close to Peña Nieto have convinced him that the new president won’t cut the cartels any slack.”
“That was actually my first question,” he said. “Now that I’ve got to know him, I feel like he’s not going to do that.”