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Peña Nieto to create 10,000-man security force

December 20, 2012

President Enrique Peña Nieto gave the first indication of how he plans to fulfill a campaign pledge to reduce drug-related violence in Mexico this week.

Instead of pursuing the heads of drug cartels, Peña Nieto told the National Public Security Council on Monday that he will focus more on reducing crimes against civilians, such as murder, kidnapping and extortion. To this end he will create a 10,000-strong gendarmerie (a military force charged with police duties) to operate in rural areas where the police and army have failed to take control.

“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 told cabinet ministers, state governors and security officials.

Similar gendarmerie forces are used in European countries like Spain and Italy, although Peña Nieto’s plan to train 10,000 officers has dropped considerably from the 80,000 he had promised on the campaign trail.

While this announcement was more specific than previous pledges to reduce drug violence, the president still offered no timeline for when the force would be established, nor any explanation of how officers would be recruited.

Furthermore – despite having repeatedly promised to move away from the military-led campaign against organized crime favored by his predecessor, Felipe Calderon – he declined to confirm whether he will withdraw the Mexican Army from the front-lines of the war on drugs.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong was fiercely critical of Calderon’s militarized strategy this week, noting that under the past administration, “financial resources dedicated to security have more than doubled but unfortunately crime has increased.”

“The rate of increase in homicides places us among the highest in the world,” Chong added. “In recent years, because of the violence linked to organized crime, thousands of people have died and thousands of people have disappeared.”

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