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Column 070813 Brewer

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mexico's Law Enforcement and Police Policies Questioned

By Jerry Brewer

Although violent crime presents a major challenge to any nation, criminal insurgency in Mexico has not only required Mexican resources to effectively engage with routine police services, but too it has essentially defeated an ability to systematically gain geographical control of the homeland.  

Transnational criminals, gangs and organized crime networks are described as transnational non-state actors, who through violence and intimidation attempt to secure economic dominion, authority and power over those that are empowered to stop them. Although different from conventional terrorism, inflicting massive terror on innocents, rivals, police, military and government officials allows culprits to create territorial dominance as well.

In Mexico, former President Felipe Calderon made it difficult for drug trafficking organizations to hold ground or territory by the utilization of advanced strength and firepower of the military and elements of the Federal Police. Whereas the criminal organizations often ambushed and confronted the most elite of Calderon's forces head-on, plus they targeted police and other government officials for abduction and murder. 

Calderon was later intensely criticized for his aggressive and powerful response to the barbaric murderous rampage by this transnational crime insurgency.  Many claimed that this proactive and strategic response was simply causing the insurgents to be even more bold and retaliatory.  This was much like telling your government to just leave the enemy alone because you are making them madder.

These terrorist-like insurgents demonstrated some traditional terror modus operandi with superior weaponry and explosive devices, as well as strategic paramilitary style concealment and movement; pre-attack surveillance; and sophisticated communications capabilities. They realized the theatrical nature of their murderous acts and beheadings and liked it. This not so cleverly represented identity to them, although most were also known as drug traffickers for profit which was obviously not their intended message.

However, the violence was cleverly choreographed to demonstrate that they were an organized force representing power and control like any other guerrilla-like insurgent group.

Mexico has been described as one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. It is believed that more than 300 journalists have been killed since the 1980s in Mexico, with many still missing.  The degree of intended importance that the media set for the reporting agenda on crime and violence, and how the stories were framed in terms of their influence as to how the message was understood and interpreted, caused journalists to be stalked, kidnapped, tortured and murdered, with several of them having been beheaded and hung on displayed in public places.  This clearly being a modus operandi of terrorists.

Policing Mexico requires a monumental transition in thinking and strategizing, this with the collective participation of police, military and criminal justice system (including courts and corrections) experts.

Drug interdiction, as well as arms and currency trafficking, and money laundering, must remain priorities as higher potency drugs are in increasing demand - far beyond those legalized to date, or that might be expected to be legalized in the future.

Calderon's aggressive zero tolerance for the drug cartel hierarchies and their organized networks moved a reported 90 percent of US-destined cocaine trafficking operations to Central America. This forced a lot of Mexico's problems into those regions, as well as deadly fights for control of the drug distribution hubs and routes.

Mexican officials must not see this as a permanent displacement, or a successful sweeping of the insurgents out of Mexico for good. Mexico remains a major transhipment point. 

Unfortunately, the security policies of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto appear to be reactive in nature, and well away from a hard-nosed enforcement approach against not only drug traffickers, but too increasing acts of kidnappings for ransom, human trafficking - and the sex trade aspects of trafficked persons, extortion for protection, and murder for hire.

Peña Nieto has vacillated from enforcement postures against drug traffickers and drug kingpins, to pursuing violent criminals with more of a focus on so-called "traditional crime."  His stated desires, to move priorities away from drug arrests and seizures and simply towards violence reduction, have created concern among US political leaders.

President Barack Obama speaks of close cooperation with Mexico, while moving "to a more humanistic counternarcotics policy, and plans to strengthen communities in the border region with resources to be dedicated to tackling substance abuse and violence through health and education programs." This described as policies focused almost entirely on security, which too include broader social issues that fuel organized crime and the drug trade. And this appears to be much of Peña Nieto's message.

The Mexican president's controversial "gendarmerie," as part of the national police force, appears to be yet another major blunder in political subterfuge, trying to appease those that want a strongly armed and aggressive policing posture.

Although with clear military identity and origin that might appease some, the gendarmes will be seen as police - yet without the strength or power aspects of the army and navy that have previously been quite successful in the fight against criminal insurgents.  As well, they do not have the policing infrastructure to serve in that capacity.

Again, geographical control and territorial dominion sought by criminal insurgents will continue to be at issue with an obvious lack of effective enforcement and policing services.


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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