Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna has the full backing of the government despite calls for his resignation by poet Javier Sicilia, who has become a symbol of the struggle for justice in Mexico, the Calderon administration’s security spokesman said.
The federal government respects differing opinions in society, but it disagrees with the points made by Sicilia at the end of a peace march on Sunday, federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.
“If anyone has worked for the creation of a civilian police force that is professional, follows the law, is well equipped and has intelligence capabilities that guarantee the safety of the people, that person is Garcia Luna,” Poire said in a press conference Monday at the Los Pinos presidential residence.
The Federal Police, which is under the control of Garcia Luna, “has achieved the capture of many criminals, some of them responsible for some of the crimes that hurt us the most,” Poire said.
The Federal Police is responsible, along with other federal forces, for the weakening of the country’s drug cartels, “the ones that generate violence, kidnappings, extortion,” Poire said.
Garcia Luna has expanded the size of the Federal Police from 6,500 officers at the start of President Felipe Calderon’s term in December 2006 to more than 36,000 officers, of whom 7,000 are “graduates of the country’s best universities and all are subject to strict background checks,” Poire said.
The federal government accepts the public’s criticism, but “a strong citizens’ culture includes support for the institutions that have yielded fruit in the fight against organized crime and criminality,” the security spokesman said.
Lack of agreement, however, should “not be an obstacle to dialogue,” Poire said.
Sicilia concluded his national march for peace on Sunday with an address to thousands of people in Mexico City’s main Zocalo plaza at the end of the peace march.
The poet organized the four-day march from Cuernavaca, located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Mexico City, to protest the unraveling of the country at the hands of drug traffickers, violence and corruption.
Sicilia’s 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was killed along with six other young men on March 27, with investigators saying that drug traffickers were behind the slayings.
The poet called on Calderon to demand Garcia Luna’s resignation.
The war on drugs has left 40,000 people dead, Sicilia said, adding that Calderon continues to pursue his strategy despite mounting criticism.
Some in the crowd called for the ouster and even killing of Garcia Luna, a conservative who is widely hated and has been accused of corruption by grassroots organizations and some in the media.
The 55-year-old Sicilia, however, urged the crowd to avoid more violence.
“No, don’t let him die, fire him, no more deaths, no more hatred, violence will lead us to more violence,” Sicilia told the crowd.
The dignity and fortitude with which the writer has coped with his son’s death and his demands that the government do more to halt the violence have resonated with people in different sectors of Mexican society, who have come together under the slogan “Estamos hasta la madre!” (We’ve had it up to here!), a typically Mexican expression of exasperation.
The goal of Sicilia’s movement is to forge a national pact aimed at sharply reducing the violence resulting from turf wars among rival drug cartels and a government offensive against the gangs.
Calderon, whose term began in December 2006 and runs through November 2012, is stubbornly sticking to his strategy of combating the powerful drug gangs with tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers despite an ever-escalating death toll, the poet said.
Calderon’s critics contend that his strategy has only triggered an increasingly violent response from drug traffickers, who are known for brutal tactics, such as hanging their decapitated rivals from bridges in urban areas.
Federal forces also have been accused of rights violations, but the government says it is essential that they play the lead role in combating the cartels due to widespread corruption among law enforcement at the local and state level.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico in 2010, the deadliest in current government’s four-and-a-half-year war on the cartels.