Thursday, May 17, 2012
López Obrador clarifies stance on Mexican military force withdrawal from drug war
Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has repeatedly announced that if elected he would quickly remove Mexican troops from the 65 month old drug war, yesterday clarified, if not modified, his stance.
On several occasions López Obrador, whom the Mexican press invariably refers to as the "leftist" nominee, has said that the armed forces would be "returned to their quarters within six months." The candidate's plan is to let local and state police units carry the brunt of the struggle against the country's drug cartels. Many Mexicans no longer have confidence in the National Security Strategy implemented by president Felipe Calderón in December 2006, the purpose of which was to defeat the cartels with federal forces. But neither do most believe that municipal contingents, often called preventivos here, are up to the task.
During his morning press conference yesterday (May 16), López Obrador said that troops, whom he characterized as "worn out," would be gradually withdrawn from drug war duties, a change from earlier assurances. "We have to take care of the army, which is exhausted from this fight. It's one of the country's most important institutions, and we don't want to undermine it. So while we're still going to remove it from public security duties, the process will be slow, to protect the people." The PRD hopeful, who increasingly appears to be the real second-place contender in Mexico's presidential contest, didn't set further timetables.
The candidate spoke while on a campaign swing through the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan, in Sinaloa state. The region is well known for extreme drug trafficking violence.
López Obrador has also talked of creating a new national police force, although Mexico already has federal police officers. It's unclear if he would set up a new agency, or merely reconstitute and retrain existing federales. Either option would likely take several years.
Mexico is in the process of weeding out corruption from local police forces, especially at the city and town level, which all the presidential candidates agree is indispensable. The country has 458,816 police officers according to government sources. As of September 2011 about 71,000 of them, or less than eight percent, had passed loyalty and honesty tests (Weeding out corrupt cops is daunting task in Mexico - polygraphs await 500,000: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2011/10/weeding-out-corrupt-local-cops-remains.html). In some particularly violent areas federal military units have replaced urban police forces entirely (Mexican troops take over police functions in Veracruz: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2011/12/federal-troops-take-over-police.html).
In March an assistant U.S. secretary of state told a House of Representatives committee that one of Mexico's major security issues is local police corruption, something which has plagued the country for generations (U.S. drug czar tells House that Mexican local, state police are heavily infiltrated: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/03/us-drug-czar-tells-house-that-juarez-is.html).
PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota has long said that she plans to stay the course with Calderón's military strategy until local security forces are ready to take on the drug cartels, which could take years. PRI nominee Enrique Peña Nieto has flip-flopped on the issue, but in a campaign speech delivered April 8 he said that Mexican troops will maintain primary responsibility for narcotics trafficking interdiction if he's elected president (Peña Nieto says Mexican army will retain pivotal role in drug war if he's elected: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/04/after-months-of-wavering-pena-nieto.html).
López Obrador repeats promise to pull Mexican military forces from drug war: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/02/lopez-obrado-repeats-promise-to-pull.html.
Fanciful and shifting economic promises, a staple in Mexican campaign: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/04/fanciful-and-shifting-economic-promises.html.
Mexico's presidential campaign begins: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/03/mexicos-presidential-campaign-opens.html#more.
Sen. John McCain has his doubts about one of Mexico's presidential candidates: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/02/sen-john-mccain-expresses-doubt-about.html.
Crooked Cancún cops shake down New Yorkers: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.mx/2012/05/crooked-cancun-cops-shake-down-new.html.
at 10:50 AM