While the world has been captivated by the Chilean miner rescue, the drug wars in Mexico, lodged by powerful cartels against the local and federal police has continued to rage. Last week, the government announced a new plan to fight the drug cartels: overhauling the national police force. If successful, the plan would rebuild public trust and help reduce corruption, which has allowed the cartels to flourish and carry-on illicit activities. The plan will abolish local police departments and replace them with a “unified command.” Because the local police departments have become infiltrated and manipulated by the cartels, politicians hops that a unified command will present a more cohesive, professional force and demonstrate progress to the international world.
A transformation from local police force to national police force will take time and won’t solve all of Mexico’s problems. While it’s true that local police are vastly overrun with corruption, the federal government, and likely a new unified command, won’t be immune. Furthermore, by creating a new wave of unemployed (former local police), the plan opens up a new market and potential recruits for the cartels. In fact, the Zetas, considered one of the deadliest cartels, were originally Army Special Forces.
In the meantime, violence has continued to rage. On the 11th, a group of gunmen in Sinaloa ambushed police officers, killing eight and injuring others. But attacks are not limited to state police: a justice department official was assassinated in Chihuahua. And, reports have surfaced that the severed head of a Mexican investigator was delivered to Mexican officials as a warning to stay out of the “cartel’s territory.” In Monterrey, four police were injured following a grenade attack at the state police station, and fifteen civilians, including six children, were injured after drug cartels targeted a popular town square, throwing grenades into the main square of Guadalupe. The attack was said to be the “fourth in two days.” These attacks add to the more than 28,000 people who have died in drug-related violence during the past four years. On the 18th, the Mexican police announced its biggest seizure of marijuana, confiscating 134 tons of drugs, a value of over $340 million.
The U.S. (both Bush and Obama administrations) has placed much emphasis on defeating the Mexican drug cartels. Although there has been no formal assistance plan, like Plan Colombia, many experts call for a similar plan. Of course, the situation in Mexico poses an even greater threat than the situation in Colombia a few decades ago. This is due the shared border and massive immigration debates. While the police overhaul should help curtail cartel strength, it will likely not be a complete solution. The battle with the cartels will continue, and the number of victims will continue to increase. Still, the unified command plan is a baby step in the right direction and shows that the Calderon government is dedicated to solving the cartel problem. That is better than nothing.
See BBC’s coverage of “Mexico’s Drug Violence on Screen.“