Going by Mexican press accounts now and in the past it is possible to detail at least some elements of Pena's new security strategy in dealing with organized crime.
One of the first acts of the incoming president Pena was to make a proposal which would disband and fold the federal cabinet level Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) into the Secretaria de Gobierno (SEGOB), or interior ministry. Originally that proposal was met with a great deal of resistance especially with the Mexican left including the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), with many top leaders of which calling the move a throwback to the old days when Mexico's SEGOB was one of the most powerful security agencies in Mexico, especially during the Dirty War of the 1970s and 1980s.
|Miguel Osorio Chong|
As that change moved through the legislature, the new SEGOB, Miguel Osorio Chong, met with several governors, the latest of which included Coahuila governor Ruben Moreira Valdes, as well as the governors of Durango, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
In a news story posted Saturday on the website of El Diario de Coahuila, Governor Moreira told reporters that a new federal security strategy was about to be implemented to including the "cleaning" of police and help with the proposed Gendarmeria Nacional, which is a campaign promise President Pena made throughout the campaign season last spring and summer. Then as now, how this new police force would be used is shrouded in mystery. Little indications exist that the current national police, the Policia Federal (PF), has had their mission diminished so far. PF units still patrol many of Mexico crime trouble spots in the north including in Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Zacatecas.
But there is little mistake that the violence level already has been reduced since December 1st, by virtue of the sheer drop in reported incidents. Such a drop may not mean anything, however. Confrontations between Mexico's military units and organized crime, at least in the last three years, have historically had their ups and downs. The Mexican Army changes zone and regional commands in June, and promotions for colonels and higher ranks, a precursor to command shuffling, usually takes place in November. Commanders in both instances usually need some time to get up to speed. The new Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), both the controlling agency for the Mexican Army and the cabinet level job now held by General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, will also likely need some time to get up to speed as well.
However, some regional commanders have already attended regional security conferences since November, in Mexico where governors and representative from regional gather to discuss their plans for new security arrangements.
One example was a regional conference, the second of it s kind, which took place two weeks ago including commander of the Mexican V Military Region, General de Division Genaro Fausto Lozano Espinoza, and the governors of Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Colima, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, according to a news item posted on the website of EL Sol de Centro news daily.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss implementing the Mando Unico Policial or Single Police Command, a federal security scheme which has been partially implemented since 2010. The idea behind the Mando Unico Policial is for the states to use individuals which have been trained and are usually better paid than municipal or even state police commands to deal more effectively with organized crime.
The news article reported that agreements between the federal government and Aguascalientes and Mexico state have already been signed, which indicates that changes are going to take place which will likely shift resources from supporting the current police agencies in support of a more federal response to organized crime.
|Miguel Alonso Reyes|
The end game for the new security arrangement has been revealed by Zacatecas governor, Miguel Alonso Reyes, who said the main objective was to return Mexico's military "to the barracks" and allow police forces to take over security work against organized crime.
But as Coahuila governor Moreira has indicated, that is a tall order. In the El Diario de Coahuila article Moreira was quoted as saying that only one on 20 applicant pass the confidence tests. Moreiea also revealed that federal forces, meaning to include Polica Federal, Mexican Army and Naval Infantry will continue to support security operations in regions such as La Laguna and in Saltillo, both in Coahuila state.
Why this is significant is because of Laguna Seguro, the security operation in La Laguna area was implemented just a little over a year ago. Between the time the cessation of the operation was announced in October and December, both La Laguna as well as Saltillo have experienced a large spike in shootings and organized crime violence in the area, prompting Durango state to continue reinforced patrols in its half of La Laguna.
Although it has not been formally announced except in Governor Moreira pronouncements to the press, Laguna Seguro as a separate, federally supported security operation has been resurrected, at least for the time being.
How the new Gendarmeria Nacional agency will figure in President Pena's new strategy is explained in Pena's official website. The Gendarmeria Nacional will be expected to be deployed in troubled regions such as La Laguna, Saltillo and Piedras Negras, as well as the border areas such as between Jalisco and Zacatecas states, and on national borders including seaports and airports.
As matters stand now, airport and seaport security area already handled by the Mexican Army and Navy respectively, so it can be presumed that the intention of Pena Nieto is to completely supplant Mexico's military with civilian police better trained and paid than state and municipal police.
The plan to reduce if not totally eliminate Mexico's military in dealing with organized crime has long been an agenda item for Mexico's left. Indeed, the leader of Mexico's left, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has long advocated returning Mexico's military to the barracks, while shifting those resources as savings to Mexico's poor.
President Pena's plan has so far been well received among politicians of the left, and while such concordance may seem rare, much of Mexico's left were formerly disaffected members of President Pena's Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
PRI's and PRD's arch political rivals, however, see the new security strategy as a repackaged version of Calderon's security strategy.
Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) politician Guillermo Anaya, chair of the Chamber of Deputy's public safety commission has dismissed President Pena's plan as as one that resembles former PAN president Felipe Calderon's security plan.
According to a news item posted Saturday on the website of El Diario de Coahuila, Anaya is quoted as saying "This announcement is equal to what is served for the past six years.'s Pure media effect and good intentions."
Anaya's remarks are a 180 degree change from the goodwill PAN politicians had for the plan to fold SSP into SEGOB. How the PF will figure into Pena's new security strategy was revealed a week ago, when a PF unit toured the Gomez Palacio, Durango Centro Readaptacion Social (CERESO) at the request of the Comite Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH), or human right commission.
Tour may be too mild a word: PF elements searched the prison uncovering contraband such as cell phones, but failing to find weapons, which were later used by prisoners to affect an escape.
The operation, the first since PF was folded into SEGOB could be seen as an abject failure in its new role in President Pena's security plan.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com