A GCE/Milenio telephone survey on March 22 found that by a margin of 58%-21% respondents thought organized crime (rather than the government) was winning the drug war. This is an increase in the margin of 14% points since last July. The Army is the principal institution respondents have confidence in to keep them safe (35.8%), followed by the Federal Investigation Agency, or AFI (11%). The U.S. FBI and DEA score higher than the Justice Ministry or the Mexican police. (www.gabinetece.com.mx)
Congress got an early start on the long Holy Week vacation, as the Senate failed to get a quorum for its last scheduled session. The Senate leadership, headed by PAN Senator Gustavo Madero, invoked ‘fast track’ rules to speed key legislation during the final month of the Congressional session, from April 6-30. On the agenda are 68 pieces of legislation covering 13 reform initiatives. The legislation is in four broad areas: national security, political reform, public safety, and internal regulation of the Senate. (Excelsior 3/29, Reforma 3/25, Universal 3/29)
Some 10,000 residents of Monterrey marched for peace yesterday, dressed in white and releasing white balloons. Nuevo León governor Rodrigo Medina headed the march. While the level of violence in the metropolitan region abated, there were two highly publicized incidents during the week.
Naval Marines arrested Alberto Mendoza Contreras, aka El Chico Malo (“Bad Boy”), alleging that he controlled trafficking for the Beltrán Leyva cartel in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro. Controversial San Pedro mayor Mauricio Fernández Garza said that he paid El Chico Malo as an informant (and credited him for fingering 50 corrupt cops), but denied that he had any knowledge of his trafficking activities. He added that Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont approved these activities, setting off a firestorm. The Ministry of Government issued an immediate statement in response: “It is unacceptable, under any circumstances, to exchange intelligence information for tolerating impunity or protecting criminals.”
In a second incident, the body of a drug dealer was found handcuffed and with signs of torture the day after he was photographed being detained by police in the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina. He was one of two suspects wanted for trying to ambush the local police chief. The police transferred him to Naval marines for transport to a hospital for treatment of injuries, but both the police and the marines deny responsibility for the suspect’s killing. (Excelsior 3/26, Reforma 3/24, 3/27)
In an interview on CNN, President Calderón renewed his call on the U.S. to crack down on the illegal trafficking of arms to Mexico. He said it was not a question of new laws, but of enforcing existing U.S. law. He said more than 80% of the drug cartels’ weapons came from the U.S., and that his government had seized 66,000 weapons, half of them assault rifles, in the last three years. He also urged re-enactment of the U.S. assault weapons ban, while acknowledging that this would be politically difficult. (Reforma 3/29)
At a tourism summit at the official residence Los Pinos, Calderón called on Mexicans to be ambassadors for their country, and not to speak badly of Mexico when abroad. He said that the murder rate was only 11.5 per 100,000, significantly below the levels in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, and other countries. (Universal 3/26)
The National Governors’ Conference (Conago) backed the Government’s proposal to establish one state-level police force for each state. Most municipal police would be transferred to new state-level forces, after undergoing background checks and additional training. Municipal governments would retain responsibility only for traffic enforcement. Government Secretary Gómez Mont worked with the governors to reach the agreement, which was originally proposed by Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna. Establishing the new state-level forces requires amendment of the federal Constitution. (Reforma 3/24)