A Mexican Senate committee reported last Tuesday that drug gangs have dominated the mayors of some 195 municipalities and influence another 1536, which account for a staggering 71% of the total two thousand 439 municipalities in Mexico.
The president of the Municipal Development Committee of the Senate, Ramon Galindo, said that organized crime groups "have complete control over 8% of the municipalities and have infiltrated up to 63 percent of the total."
In the study titled "Local authorities and organized crime," prepared by experts and presented by the committee, it is detailed how criminal cells operate in the municipalities.
"In most Mexican municipalities there is a criminal structure capable of controlling the business of organized crime, drug pushing, cultivation and drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion," warns the document.
Map showing the total number of municipalities in Mexico. 71 percent of these municipalities are controlled or influenced by drug cartels
The chairman of the Senate committee explained that the municipalities are prey to criminal groups because they are "the weakest link" because of the lack of funding, lack of sustainable economic and social policies, and neglect and disinterest of state and federal governments.
According to the study, the cartels have generated a "expansive, simple and sustainable" filtration in the municipalities.
The cartels have learned and mastered the formula of the equation. They have understood that the municipality, as the level of government closest to people, is key in their success, particularly for drug pushing operations," according to text.
He adds that later they establish themselves, at a municipal level, logistical support, infrastructure, political cooperation and the complicit silence.
The analysis finds that the criminal structure operates "under the shield of corruption: politically protected and logistically supported by the municipal police," which "keeps the red lights turned on."
Galindo said, to counteract this problem, it is "urgent" to adjust policies and strengthen municipalities politically and economically.
Additionally he added the need for all local government officials: mayors, aldermen, and trustees, to stop being simple decorative figures and become true exemplifying "pillars of the state."
The senator added that another outstanding issue is to reduce threats and even death in those localities which are in dispute by warring cartels.
In the past three years drug cartels, who have increasingly taken on the characteristics of an insurgent rebel movement, have assassinated 41 local officials, including mayors, former mayors, magistrates, council clerks and mayoral candidates.
The senator predicted, in his closing statement, the war against drugs and organized crime launched by President Felipe Calderon, will be long and drawn out, unless strategies for long term social and economic development are made a priority within municipalities across the country.