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Column 052713 Brewer

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mexico needs to reassess its Security and Anti-crime Plans

By Jerry Brewer

Many citizens of Mexico appear exhausted from the waffling and indecisions by their government on the death and violence that has engulfed their homeland for nearly a decade.  And a good number of these brave people are now taking solid positions and actions due to urgent concerns for their personal safety and the security of their nation.

They are demanding more efficient strategies and real results, and they are sharing their doubts that President Enrique Peña Nieto has a plan or answers that will truly make a difference.

The number of deaths from this barbaric violence and murder in Mexico is believed to be well over 70,000 since 2006.  This in stark comparison to U.S. deaths in the Viet Nam war, which were estimated at 58,000 fatalities. 

Previous President Felipe Calderon aggressively fought what was described as a drug war, with a primary focus on drug cartel hierarchy and drug seizures. President Peña Nieto may be missing the point on the method and true fight in Mexico.

He simply says he wants to fight crime rather than track down drug lords. He also states that he wants to focus “public attention away from the violence and on to the economy.” It appears clear that the massive death and violence is not being conducted by the true “drug lords.” Many are being killed as victims of violent street crime, as well as drug related causes and transnational rival competition for criminal turf.  Peña Nieto’s pledge of focusing public attention on the economy will not make the massive violence simply go away.

It may be that the true focus of Mexico’s long tenured and perplexing dilemma has been its failure to define the problem as a criminal insurgency rather than a drug war.

Pacification was a term introduced in the Viet Nam war. It was narrowly defined as “to reduce to peaceful submission, to establish peace and tranquility in a country or district.”  Some viewed it as a short-term military operation aimed at quashing opposition.  One of the most comprehensive definitions called it an “array and combination of action programs designed to extend the presence and influence of the central government and to reduce the presence and influence of those that threaten the survival of the government through propaganda, terror and subversion."

Unfortunately, even in Viet Nam the U.S. and the Vietnamese could not agree on just what pacification was and how it might be achieved.

In terms of pacification, Mexico has seen their military and police battling the opposition, often times being ambushed and attacked head on. As well, some claim that Mexico is nearing failed state status, as terror is instilled with traditional terrorist modus operandi of beheadings, bombings (IEDs), war-like weapons, and the propaganda by the transnational organized criminals who have routinely murdered scores of journalists, local and state government officials, police chiefs, and others. Too, they have left messages by displaying their bloody human carnage from viaducts and in other public locations.

Insurgencies displace populations as they have in Mexico. Insurgencies also result in armed rebellions and vigilantism that bring lawlessness and challenge legitimate authority.

The Strategic Hamlet program was a plan in the Viet Nam war to combat the communist insurgency. After having swept an area clear of insurgents, villagers were protected and the area fortified in a hamlet by local militia. Once security had been established social and economic initiatives were established.

In a sense, it was designed as sort of a current new policing concept of taking back your city one street or neighborhood at a time. As in problem-oriented policing, the concentration was on those areas most susceptible to crime and violence. Geographical priorities must be a critical focus as in an insurgency.

The Strategic Hamlet program eventually failed primarily due to “inadequate planning and coordination, inadequate resources, and a totally unrealistic timetable,” among other political reasons.

Unlike Mexico, Colombia knows insurgency, as well as violent crime and drug war. Policing terrorism by left-wing guerillas in Colombia with police and the military since the mid-1960s was a learned behavior; as well as witnessing a forced displacement of over a million citizens.

As the FARC terrorists wreaked havoc on Colombia, violent drug cartels in the 1970s and 1980s began to finance their activities in response to the government’s crackdown and U.S. extradition efforts against them. These efforts were described as alliances of convenience. The Cali and Medellin drug cartels had also killed hundreds of government officials, police, prosecutors, judges, journalists and innocents before their demise.

Former President Alvaro Uribe has been credited for efforts to demobilize over 35,000 Colombian paramilitaries through “reform in the security forces, the empowerment of individual municipalities in security issues, and tactical strategies with targeted anti-insurgency efforts.

In Mexico, President Peña Nieto is facing rising vigilantism and frustration against the insurgent violence. Recently, after citizens endured months besieged by violence, hundreds of soldiers were sent to La Ruana in Michoacan state and set up an operating base.  Citizens cheered their arrival.

It appears that the Peña Nieto Administration may be reassessing their immediate strategies and long term methodology for Mexico’s security and safety.

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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 www.cjiausa.org.


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