independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Drug war 'has increased violence'

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto wants to focus on reducing crimes against ordinary citizens (AP/Alex Cossio)

A senior minister in Mexico's new government harshly criticised the country's US-backed attack on drug cartel leaders, saying it had caused violence to surge.

The comments by interior secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong came as incoming officials offered only limited details about the security strategy they plan to introduce.

Mr Osorio opened a meeting of the National Security Council saying that under the strategy of former president Felipe Calderon, who left office on December 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 Mr Calderon, "we have moved from a scheme of vertical leadership to a horizontal one that has made them more violent and much more dangerous", Mr Osorio Chong told the heads of the military and governors of Mexico's 31 states.

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

Mr 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 US government with hundreds of millions in funding and close co-operation with American law-enforcement, military and intelligence agencies.

Mr Osorio Chong and President Enrique Pena Nieto have promised to adjust Mr Calderon's strategy in order to move away from a focus on killing and capturing cartel leaders and towards a focus on reducing crimes against ordinary citizens, most important murders, 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 the country. It did not, however, say what those five regions would be.

Mr 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 timeline, 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.

Press Association

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