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Column 122412 Thompson

Monday, December 24, 2012

The 'National Gendarmerie' and Mexico's Crime Fighting Plans

By Barnard R. Thompson

On Monday, December 17, during the second meeting of the new administration's National Public Security Council (CNSP), Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto formally ordered creation of the awaited "National Gendarmerie" (Gendarmería Nacional).  This being part of the President's National Public Security Plan, the new national security strategy that will be in effect over the next six years, which has now been sent to the Congress for ratification.

According to a press release from the Office of the Presidency, Peña Nieto "instructed the Secretary of Government/Interior to initiate work allowing the creation of the National Gendarmerie."  And it continued: "This corps will be responsible for strengthening territorial control in municipalities with the greatest institutional weakness, as well as strategic installations such as ports, airports and borders, and it will number 10,000 members initially."

This, President Peña Nieto said in a December 19 piece in the Mexico City daily Excélsior, insofar as "our priority objectives are to reduce violence, and to regain peace and tranquility for Mexican families."

The plan, that will bring federal police under the control of the Secretariat of Government, is to work in coordination with local police and law enforcement officials to avoid overlapping and conflicts with one another in urban areas.  Plus the Gendarmerie will have a broader presence in rural jurisdictions - especially those where the presence of organized crime has been identified.

Over and above law enforcement duties, the Gendarmerie will have investigative authority.  As well, its personnel will work closely with entities such as the National Security and Investigation Center (CISEN, Mexico's principal intelligence and counter-intelligence agency) and other intelligence units in the fight against criminal groups, especially those identified as part of organized crime.

The earlier mentioned press release also said, the President "assured that the Armed Forces will continue to work in support of citizens' safety during the process of total consolidation or restructuring of states' police [forces]."

According to Estado Mayor, a blog site dedicated to the Mexican military, the nation's armed forces will be part of the initial formation of the Gendarmerie.  At the onset, plans call for the Army to transfer some 5,000 soldiers to the new "territorial control corps," whereas the Navy will assign around 2,000 sailors and marines, all this after certain legal requisites are met or reformed.  (Also see "Faulting Mexico's Military as a Drug War Police Force - A proposal to activate the Mexican National Guard," Dec. 15, 2008, MexiData.info.)

The Gendarmerie is expected to be modeled after France's Gendarmerie Nationale and/or the Spanish Guardia Civil, with maybe some Carabinieri de Chile features included.  To this end, Mexico's 2013 expenditures budget includes MP$1.5 billion [US$117.4 million] foreseen as that needed for the creation of the Gendarmerie.

Mexico's 2013 budget also includes MP$94 billion [US$7.316 million] for security and crime fighting programs in funds allocated for the ministries of Government, National Defense, and the Navy, as well as the Attorney General.  This up from MP$87 billion [US$6.771 billion] in 2012.

Sources in the Public Security Secretariat (which restructuring that is currently underway will eliminate, and its areas of responsibility will move to the Secretariat of Government) say that the National Gendarmerie will have 14 regional bases, three along the northern Mexico-USA border.  And those are expected to be up and running by May of 2013.

While many of the Gendarmerie's longer-term structural and operational plans have yet to be made known to the general public, President Peña Nieto did mention the creation of this new police and security force during his campaign and pre-inaugural period.  And some of what he said then may offer an insight into the future institutional capacity of the organization.

Last May, at a campaign event sponsored by the Institutional Revolutionary Party's Colosio Foundation, the "Second Security and Justice Forum," Peña Nieto said that his Gendarmerie project would be made-up of military personnel, under civilian command.  As to their duties, they would be to support municipal police "where organized crime hides," he said.  The then candidate added that "one of the proposals to strengthen the capabilities of the State against crime is to increase the number of federal police to 50,000, and to validate state (police) agencies."

Later in the month, during the "Fourth  Security and Justice Forum," in Mexico City, Peña Nieto told those present that the National Gendarmerie would have 90,000 men and women.  This, he said, by increasing the number of Federal Police from 36,000 to 50,000 officers, plus an additional 40,000 members of the armed forces that are currently involved in security work.

During the Mexico City forum, Peña Nieto also said that while the Gendarmerie will be headed by a civilian, (albeit perchance contradictory) those in the Army and Navy must remain under military command.

In Paris, last October, in a joint message with French President Francois Hollande, Peña Nieto said that the Gendarmerie would be modeled after its French counterpart.  On that occasion, the President-elect said: "I have asked the President of France for his cooperation, that of his government, in order to find a proper design for the National Gendarmerie that I have proposed (and that) Mexico must have....  This in reference to the Gendarmerie Nationale that has historically existed here in France."

Since taking office on December 1, President Peña Nieto has discussed the National Gendarmerie in media interviews, at the CNSP meeting, and while traveling from state to state.

On December 11, in a Reforma newspaper interview, the President discussed the need for greater, better and coordinated efforts by federal and state law enforcement entities in the fight against crime, specifically mentioning extortion, kidnapping and murder - "the three crimes that have gone up" throughout Mexico.  As well, he mentioned the need for intelligence.  And he said that a greater presence of the State is foreseen in those areas via the soon to be formed Gendarmerie.

In addition to the formation announcement of the National Gendarmerie, on December 17 President Peña Nieto discussed his action plan related to Mexico's new national security strategy.  Six points were outlined in the Mexico City daily El Universal, under a sub-headline that quoted the President as saying "the mandate of Mexican citizens is very clear: Mexicans want a Mexico with security, at peace and with respect for human rights."

This is a synopsis of the President's six security plan points.

  1. Proper planning will set clear goals that include programs, efforts and budgets; plans will be made for medium and long-term security and institutional policy changes.
  2. For crime prevention, working together with citizens is essential; institutional efforts will focus on causes, not just on the consequences of criminal phenomena; a collateral program will have MP$115.6 billion [US$9.044 billion] for [2013], MP$2.5 billion [US$195.6 million] for a crime prevention fund; an Inter-secretarial Crime Prevention Commission is to be established.
  3. Needs for the protection and respect of human rights; cleansing and restructuring of the National Migration Institute (INM); and instrumentation of the public policy in order to attend to disappeared persons cases.
  4. Coordination and shared responsibility is required in order to reduce violence, thus national territory is being divided into five operational regions.
  5. For institutional transformation, policy and procurement of justice changes must take place; the creation of a National Gendarmerie, with 10,000 officers, has been ordered.
  6. State policy for security and justice for Mexicans will be permanently evaluated in each contemplated action that serves the citizenry in order to grade the work of authorities; the evaluations will also be useful for feedback and, if merited, to change State security policy.

As well, a number of security related plans and programs are briefed in the "Pact for Mexico" that Peña Nieto presented to the leaders of Mexico's three main political parties, an agreement signed by all on December 2.  A few of the 95 points therein are not included in the listed measures above.

The following are some "Pact for Mexico" security connected points that embrace goals to reach accords and/or finalize certain issues and needs.  They include promulgation, without amendment, of the Victims Law already approved by Congress; the setting of clear parameters on the use of public force; a new nationwide accusatorial and oral criminal justice system; a nationwide Uniform Penal Code; drafting and promulgation of a new Criminal Procedures Code for the entire country; a comprehensive modification of the Amparo (writ of protective injunction, similar to habeas corpus) Law, making it compatible with recent constitutional reforms; and investment of the needed resources for the construction of penal institutions to end overcrowding of federal and non-federal prisoners.

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Barnard Thompson, editor of MexiData.info, has spent 50 years in Mexico and Latin America, providing multinational clients with actionable intelligence; country and political risk reporting and analysis; and business, lobbying, and problem resolution services.

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