Thursday, June 14, 2012

Felipe Calderón tells Wall Street Journal, "violence in Mexico is declining"

U.S. stands by latest alert, but Mexican president says things are actually looking up

Mérida, Yucatán --
Forty-eight hours after the U.S. State Dept. issued a nation-wide alert for Americans living or traveling in Mexico, and on the same day the body of another journalist was discovered in the violent city of Veracruz, this country's president was quoted in a Wall Street Journal interview which said that during the first five months of 2012, narco violence here fell 12% compared to the same period in 2011. The claims were summarized today in El Universal, a Mexico City newspaper (Cae 12% violencia por narco en 2012, dice Calderón a WSJ).

The Journal said that president Calderón's optimistic statements were generally consistent with independent evaluations, according to El Universal's redacted summary of the story, although the latter were a little more conservative and suggested a nine percent reduction in crime. El Universal, quoting the Journal interview, said the lower numbers were the first in this country in at least eight years.

"Our strategy is established and working," Calderón told the U.S. paper. "Violence is decreasing, although obviously we're not singing a victory song yet." The president told the Journal that his successor would have to continue building trustworthy local police forces and reforming the nation's judicial system.

El Universal said that about 16,800 Mexicans died in narco violence in 2011, and more than 55,000 have lost their lives since Calderón launched his controversial National Security Strategy in December 2006. (47,515 dead in Mexico's five year drug war).

The president told the Wall Street Journal that although "Mexico has lost a lot of people," he hopes that his administration will be seen in the years ahead as the first to address corruption, improve the legal system and deal with the "cancer" of dysfunctional political institutions (Struggle against drug cartels, organized crime will be his legacy, Calderón says). He also said that he hoped the United States would find ways to stop the flow of cash to Mexico's warring cartels, even if by "market solutions" - buzz words for drug legalization. The latter is a theme which Calderón has put on the table before, to a chilly U.S. reception.

Calderón added that he believes his neighbors to the south -- a reference to Guatemala and Honduras, although he did not mention them by name -- were ill-prepared for incipient narcotics trafficking conflicts in the region (Mexican drug war strategy is working, but violence shifts southward). He said most Central America and Caribbean nations lack the "institutional capacity" to deal with organized crime, which is "consuming societies."

June 20 Poll: Mexicans support Calderon’s military campaign against cartels

June 12 U.S. security alert
The presidential comments stand in sharp contrast to a nationwide alert issued less than 48 hours ago (June 12) by the U.S. State Dept. That warning has been criticized by some Mexican officials as an "overreaction" to Tuesday's law enforcement raid on properties in four U.S. states, which the Justice Dept. alleges were part of a complex money laundering operation run by the Los Zetas drug cartel. Seven Mexican nationals were taken into custody in the raid, including the brother of the number two man in the Zetas organization. Federal authorities have issued arrest warrants for seven other persons (Feds bust Los Zeta money washers in U.S.).

The State Dept. issued the warning through the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Tex. But unlike other alerts issued this year through Matamoros -- a customary portal for State Dept. security notices to Americans -- this one was placed in the "Mexico-wide" section of the consular website (U.S. State Dept. issues Mexico-wide alert). The same alert was posted by American consular services in Hermosillo and Ciudad Juárez. Despite Mexican protests, U.S. warnings of "retaliation and anti-American violence" remain in place tonight.

Mexican Marines arrest top financial aid to Z-40:
Milenio reporter executed in Veracruz:
Treviño Morales Indictment Unsealed:
New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong:

President Calderón
"Dear friends in the United States - please, no more assault weapons to Mexico":
Why the Calderón strategy has been the right one:
Why the L.A. Times just doesn't get it:

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