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Column 030512 Brewer

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mexico's Presidential Election and the Fight Against Crime

By Jerry Brewer

It has been routinely suggested that Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) dominated Mexican politics with one-party rule for most of the 20th century, "corrupting the country's law enforcement and judiciary institutions."  And today, the key to Mexico's successful future may lie less in local political agendas and more on who can effectively govern an entire nation.

Mexico must have more than regional rebuilding by elected officials that have agendas favoring local ideology.  They must have an ability to unite a cohesive and comprehensive Mexican government capable of working together for the common national cause.

Yet there is a major factor influencing the presidential election that is so controversially convoluted, and perhaps logistically misunderstood, that it could quite possibly doom the homeland to years of reversals.

Passiveness with Mexican organized crime organizations that are national conglomerates of wealth, power and terror, as well as a nation state within themselves, cannot be allowed to endure under a new presidential administration.  They must not have free reign to threaten, intimidate and influence government, nor interfere with free election processes.

The Mexican economy cannot take a back seat to a continuing all out aggressive war on crime and drugs, as it must also move strategically forward in creating jobs and opportunities.  Necessary issues of health care, trade, infrastructure repair and development must also remain as critical components of Mexico's national agenda.

A fact, regarding President Felipe Calderon's war on organized crime, is that the cartels have routinely mounted operations and attacks on government, police and the military, and against other Mexican officials, utilizing sophisticated counterintelligence strategies. They do this with their own networks of spies and massive amounts of money, informants, enforcers and other sources of bought information, along with paramilitary-style tactics and armaments.

Calderon's limited choices in enforcement options, in the face of these brazen attacks by criminal gangs, was the use of Mexico's military -- a very unpopular choice with the electorate, but necessary.

President Calderon's own National Action Party (PAN) presidential candidate in this year's election, Josefina Vazquez Mota, could in fact suffer defeat based on a perception that the institutions struggling to police and enforce the rule of law nationwide are over-burdened, weakened and possibly corrupt.

As well, there have been rumors that another regionalized political party has ignored cartel crime in exchange for the curbing of violence in entities it governs.  Plus, there were reports two years ago that the PAN mayor of San Pedro Garza, Nuevo Leon, "bolstered the security of his municipality through negotiations with the Beltran Leyva drug gang."

U.S. officials are obviously concerned about the next administration, hoping that it will take the wheel to steer a clear and aggressive course of action.  U.S. officials recently summed up their concern by announcing, "Drug trafficking organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States."

The U.S. definitely has a dog in this fight, and must support proper enforcement strategies, regardless of who is elected.

The Mexican electorate and party internal political struggles must come to grips with their revolving cognitive dissonance.  Previous election campaigns have been marred by assassinations and scandals that had drug cartel footprints all over the place.  Yet the frustrations of ongoing violence and death tend to sway public opinion to call for less military spending and intervention. The counter of force, and direct confrontation and containment strategies, are rejected by citizens in exchange for more spending on the strengthening of law enforcement and judicial institutions.

The rebuilding of those institutions is certainly necessary, but the cart before the horse will not work until the threats and escalating violence are contained or eliminated.  Then there are short-sighted theories that profess legalization of drugs will solve all of the maladies of the homeland.

President Calderon will leave office doing all in his power to prevent any successor from being weak on aggressive enforcement against the crime cartels.  The geographical fragmented nation, which has seen regional mayors and other politicians kidnapped, murdered, families threatened, and similar political intimidation, must organize behind a central candidate advocating safety, security, and the pursuit of the rule of law.

It is suggested that the best President Calderon can hope for at this late juncture is to urge the Mexican electorate to show up and vote, and boldly demonstrate that they will not be intimidated.  Regenerating the voter with a fair election would be a giant step forward, and quite possibly ameliorate confidence and additional U.S. assistance to defeat a common foe.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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