MEXICO CITY (AP) — A top minister in Mexico’s new government harshly criticized the U.S.-backed attack on drug cartel leaders for causing violence to surge, while officials offered some limited details on a planned shift in security strategy.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong opened a meeting Monday of the National Security Council saying that under the strategy of former President Felipe Calderon, who left office Dec. 1, ‘‘financial resources dedicated to security have more than doubled but unfortunately crime has increased.’’
With the capture of dozens of drug capos, an achievement trumpeted by Calderon, ‘‘we have moved from a scheme of vertical leadership to a horizontal one that has made them more violent and much more dangerous,’’ Osorio told the heads of the military and the governors of Mexico’s 31 states.
‘‘The rate of increase in homicides places us among the highest in the world,’’ he said. ‘‘In recent years, because of the violence linked to organized crime, thousands of people have died and thousands of people have disappeared.’’
Calderon repeatedly said before leaving office that his forces had captured 25 of Mexico’s 37 most-wanted drug lords, a strategy backed by the U.S. government with hundreds of millions in funding and close cooperation with American law-enforcement, military and intelligence agencies.
Osorio Chong and President Enrique Pena Nieto have promised to adjust Calderon’s strategy in order to move away from a focus on killing and capturing cartel leaders and toward a focus on reducing crimes against ordinary citizens, most important homicides, kidnappings and extortion.
Nearly three weeks into their administration, they have offered few details on how they will actually do that. At Monday’s meeting, they offered a few more specifics, but there was no indication of any grand readjustment in Mexico’s security policy.
The administration said it would divide Mexico into five regions for the purposes of security planning, allowing them to design tactics specific to problems that vary widely across Mexico. It did not, however, say what those five regions would be.
Pena Nieto told the meeting that he would launch a new body of paramilitary police, based in large part of European forces known as gendarmerie, by enlisting 10,000 officers. He offered no time line, or indication of where those officers would be recruited from.
‘‘I am convinced that we’re opening a new path, a new route and a new way to address the security of the Mexican people,’’ he said.
Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former high-ranking official in Mexico’s domestic intelligence agency, said that despite the federal government’s new tone, there was little to indicate a break with Calderon’s overall strategy, including the use of military and federal police-run operations and the hope of putting state and municipal police forces under single chains of command in each state.
‘‘I see a lot of continuity despite the implicit and explicit criticism that was made,’’ Hope said.
The administration has previously estimated the eventual size of the gendarmerie at around 40,000 officers, a force that, if successful, would allow Mexico to reduce the number of soldiers and marines used to fight crime. Calderon’s widespread deployment of the military for traditionally civilian police purposes has been criticized for provoking needless bloodshed and spawning thousands of complaints of human rights violations by troops.
Pena Nieto also said his government would be creating 15 special units of the federal police dedicated to fighting extortion and kidnapping, an apparent vote of confidence in a force tainted by a recent series of scandals. Calderon made the growth and expansion of the federal police a centerpiece of his security strategy. After scandals including a drug-related shootout between federal police at Mexico City’s airport, and an attempt by federal officers to kill two CIA agents outside the city of Cuernavaca, Pena Nieto eliminated the federal police as a free-standing agency and folded the force into Osorio Chong’s Department of the Interior.
Osorio Chong said that under Calderon, kidnapping had increased 83 percent, violent robberies by 65 percent, extortion by 40 percent, sex crimes by 16 percent and highway robberies by 100 percent.
In his address, he offered no figures for the number of dead during the previous presidential term, but a written copy of his remarks said that some 70,000 people had been killed and at least 9,000 unidentified bodies had been found.Continued...