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lunes, noviembre 24, 2014

Mexico’s security crisis: Will Iguala be a wake-up call?

BY ROGER F. NORIEGA AND JOSÉ R. CÁRDENAS

Key points:

The kidnapping and probable murder of 43 students at the hands of corrupt local officials and drug gangsters in September is a tragic reminder of persistent criminality and weak government institutions in much of Mexico.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has prioritized key economic reforms over security, and his administration must now deal with instability that undermines his goal to modernize Mexico.

The United States should invigorate security cooperation with Mexico to fight crime and secure the border to safeguard the long-term benefits of a healthy US-Mexico economic partnership.

Mexico’s democracy, stability, and economy require a collaborative response from all levels of government to quell the wave of recent political unrest and address the underlying causes of insecurity and public dissatisfaction. The current crisis—sparked by national outrage over the September 26 disappearance of 43 students near the town of Iguala in the state of Guerrero—should be a wake-up call for the country.1

The atrocity in Iguala is linked to drug-related corruption and violence, which continues unabated in many areas of the country and has exposed weak state and local governments that enable criminal organizations to operate with virtual impunity in many parts of Mexico.

Widespread public demonstrations and global media coverage since the tragedy are undermining President Enrique Peña Nieto’s effort to portray Mexico as a stable, modernizing nation.2 Furthermore, a pattern of insecurity has evolved into a political crisis that, if not addressed effectively, threatens the governability of the country and the well-being of all Mexicans.

Thus far, Peña Nieto’s perceived ineffective response to the tragedy is fueling public discontent.3 His decision to leave the country to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in China during the growing public protests—and a scandal involving a multibillion-dollar rail construction bid won by a consortium allegedly linked to a $7 million mansion owned by his wife—have stirred doubts about his ability to manage the crisis.4

Two years into his six-year term, Peña Nieto has focused his attention on a series of economic and social reforms that he hopes will make Mexico a more modern nation. Unfortunately, the issues of corruption and insecurity that he consciously underestimated now threaten the stability of the country and the success of reforms that he hopes will be his legacy. His challenge now is to move beyond the political maneuvering in Mexico City and take a stronger hand in governing a country beset by weak institutions, corruption, and organized crime.

Ghosts of Mexico’s Past

In many ways, Mexico’s story is a tale of two countries. One Mexico is undergoing dynamic, positive change that will result in the country finally fulfilling its enormous potential. Particularly in booming urban centers, there is a growing middle class, social mobility, and robust demand for homes and consumer goods.5 Peña Nieto hopes his reforms will attract investment to this dynamic, modern Mexico. But the second Mexico, revealed in recent weeks by the events in Iguala, is hindered by institutions that are too weak and, in some cases, politicians who are too corrupt to impose the rule of law.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governed Mexico by relying on crony capitalism, quasi-authoritarian political tactics and de facto truces with criminal organizations for more than 70 years. That grip on power was broken from 2000 to 2012 by two successive National Action Party (PAN) presidents. The PRI recovered power with Peña Nieto’s election; however, since his inauguration on December 1, 2012, the young president has advocated sweeping reforms that appeared to break with his party’s corrupt history of defending entrenched interests. He used the political punch of the PRI to push through modernizing reforms that challenged entrenched interests—rewriting tax and education policy and opening up the energy and telecommunications sector.

During his campaign, Peña Nieto also promised a new approach to the confrontational security policy that his predecessor, Felipe Calderón (2006–12), pursued. Calderón launched, for the first time in the country’s history, an aggressive and frontal approach to fighting organized crime. In six years, the bloody confrontation resulted in the loss of some 60,000 Mexican lives, shocking the nation.

Peña Nieto advocated a strategy that favored intelligence over frontal attacks against criminal organizations and focused on dealing with high-impact crimes, such as kidnappings, extortion, and murder.6 Once elected, Peña Nieto made a point of reining in Mexican cooperation with US law enforcement and military. However, it is not clear that he implemented a comprehensive security strategy, preferring to intervene on an ad hoc basis when security crises flared up in various states.

Unfortunately, the toll on citizen security since Peña Nieto took office has been steep. Kidnappings and extortion cases have increased by 27 percent compared to the last administration, according to Mexico’s National Public Security System.7 This criminality has stoked public anxiety about insecurity, which has increased exponentially with the murders in Iguala and the government’s uneven response.

Etiquetas:

posted by Aserne Venezuela @ 11:10 a.m. 

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