Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto recently professed his pledge to keep fighting illegal drugs in his country. However, Mr. Peña Nieto has stated that he plans to change Mexico’s drug enforcement strategies. Law enforcement officials in Arizona and along the U.S.-Mexico border should be wary of his new drug-enforcement policy.
During a recent speech, Mr. Peña Nieto announced that Mexico will no longer target drug cartels. His administration will not measure the success of drug enforcement operations by the number of drug kingpins eliminated or the cache of drugs that his agents seize and destroy. His new goal and his new measurement of success will be the reduction in drug-related killings in Mexico.
Mr. Peña Nieto also affirmed a commitment to work cooperatively with U.S. drug enforcement efforts. He drew the line, however, about having armed American drug agents working in his country. Probably a good decision unless Americans also want armed Mexican cops working on our side of the border.
As Americans, we should examine closely his plan and be very concerned about his approach to drug enforcement. By all accounts we should prepare for the effects of his return-to-the-old-way enforcement strategy — a strategy that could directly affect the drug-enforcement efforts in Arizona and other border states.
Mexico’s outgoing President Felipe Calderón aggressively enforced a drug enforcement strategy which fell in line with that of the United States and other countries: target the cartel kingpins, seize their drugs and weapons to dismantle their operation. This is the same strategy employed by most law enforcement agencies in the United States. American cops have always sniped at the heels of illegal drug users, but the drug dealers and suppliers have always been the ultimate target. Chop off the head of the snake and the serpent will die.
Apparently, that is about to change in Mexico under President-elect Peña Nieto. According to Bloomberg News, more than 47,000 drug-related murders occurred in the last five years under Mexico President Felipe Calderón’s watch – a staggering and unacceptable statistic by anyone’s standards.
Exactly how Mr. Peña Nieto plans to employ drug enforcement strategies that will reduce the number of drug-related murders remains unclear. His strategy does represent the calling of the people of Mexico who are weary of the decades-long drug violence in their streets. But is this an effective approach to deal with the drug cartels? How will he convince them to stop the ruthless and sadistic killings in pursuit of their drug trade? Where does such bargaining begin and end?
Mr. Peña Nieto is also hatching a plan to eliminate all local police agencies and create a single “state police” force for each of Mexico’s 31 states. This would give Peña Nieto’s administration complete control over the country’s police. This must seem like good news for drug cartels who may view this as a president who is willing to negotiate and bargain with them about their violent tactics.
This is troublesome on two fronts. First, there would be no local law enforcement to develop specific enforcement strategies for their particular problems. Police resources in Mexico are already stretched to the limit. Local governments will be hamstrung in dealing with their own crime issues or trying to extract funding to combat their regional drug problems.
Second, who will provide objective oversight of the police? With Mexico’s long history of corrupt police with ties to the drug cartels, we as Americans should be wary. President-elect Peña Nieto would have total control over the federal police and the “state police” forces he plans to establish. He has professed his strategy to no longer target the cartel hierarchy, but has yet to outline exactly what his relationship with the drug lords will be. Will certain regions in Mexico once again become safe-havens for the drug cartels? Will the Mexican Federáles at the U.S. border be told to turn a blind eye to drug shipments entering the United States?
Mexican President-elect Peña Nieto has his work cut out for him if he is to eradicate illegal drug trafficking and reduce the number of drug-related murders in his country. Americans should watch with their eyes wide open as the new leadership in Mexico forms their new drug-enforcement policies.
In light of President-elect Peña Nieto’s new drug enforcement strategies, our porous border with Mexico should be of grave concern to all Arizonans. Now more than ever, the American people need to stand up and voice their legitimate concerns to Washington, D.C. about the ineffective border security between the United States and Mexico. The leadership within our nation’s capitol needs to take off the gloves and find a workable, bi-partisan approach to border security – before the violent terrorist tactics of the Mexican drug cartels spill over onto American soil.