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Column 020816 Brewer

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mexico's Incongruous National Security Aims and Strategies

By Jerry Brewer

Prioritizing the reduction of violence as a top security priority by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was an insightful entry into his presidential term that began in December 2012.

Moving this bold strategy forward however, lacked the paradigm of aligning Mexico’s traditional policing into a proper enforcement posture, with well-balanced military support, as opposed to policies and practices that all too often bring into question police legitimacy. 

Regional instabilities and deficit levels of public support and cooperation exacerbated the justice component necessity for that legitimacy as well.

Peña Nieto’s reduction of violence plan lacked the conceptual and organizational changes necessary to tackle and focus on lowering kidnapping, extortion, and murder rates, which was in contrast to former President Felipe Calderon’s [2006-2012] six year focus of direct confrontations with drug cartels and intensification of drug enforcement operations. 

President Calderon’s options were seriously limited as competing drug cartels fought viciously to take and control operational turf. From 2005 to 2006 the violence and carnage included a total lack of respect for police, the military, and governing officials as the cartels ambushed and fought them aggressively – and with impunity. Not even journalists were spared, as they were hunted down and ruthlessly killed as token reminders to those who dared to continue to report.

Peña Nieto’s dilemma was, and remains, how to address the disparity between the failures of crime deterrence by an aggressive and motivated military that became quite successful at tracking down drug hierarchical figures, and his new basic deterrence plan by police.

The incompatibility of these two key disparities are completely manifested through a weak border with Guatemala and the heavily armed criminality emanating from the northern tier nations of Central America and routinely crossing into the Mexican homeland. These transnational gangs and organized criminals are used to having their way in corrupting or killing police and governing officials due to their own countries that are too weak to resist them.

Further complicating Peña Nieto’s course of planned policing actions has been his struggle with boosting Mexico’s economy, which was his signature plan; albeit, he has pushed through a dozen or so reform packages for the energy, telecommunications, finance and education sectors.

Mexico’s economy obviously is reflected in its criminal justice failures, especially through the profound impact and far reaching arm of organized crime nationally and from the south. This due to criminal organizations having adopted the practices and technologies of a globalized economy to build transnational networks to penetrate lucrative and necessary corridors to reach illicit markets.

The late leftist President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, must share a large portion of the blame for Mexico’s pain and suffering. Anti-US regimes were financed by many in the corrupt Chavez regime, and inspired by his end to cooperation with US antidrug efforts – plus his zealous efforts and influence on other pink tide leaders in the region to do the same. In some instances, those governments have been shown to have now aided, abetted, and/or engaged in narcotrafficking.

In 2005, Chavez called former Mexican President Vicente Fox [2000-2006] a "lap dog of US imperialism.”

Transnational organized crime, with political facilitation by nations to Mexico’s south, requires a dual military and policing strategy due to the criminal insurgency elements and the related asymmetric threats it poses.

Moreover, the Mexican intelligence sector must be strengthened and enhanced with a strongly strategic and aggressive counterintelligence capability.  This strategy must be a priority of Peña Nieto’s plan to retard and make it much more difficult for criminal groups to corrupt and secure support of key regions of the Mexican homeland.

Enrique Peña Nieto cannot simply state as he has, that he can ease the waves of violence in the Mexican drug war by just redirecting the focus of the military approach, and instead focus primarily on taking down leaders of the crime cartels and most wanted drug lords; and use government resources to reduce homicides, kidnappings, and extortions by saturating areas with troops and police into locations with the highest rates of violence.

While in theory, saturation policing in key regions with problem-oriented policing tactics and proactive strategies is a key component of successful enforcement methods, the failure to have a coherent strategy of containment only serves as a sweeping action to lesser areas of control. Whether military components are utilized in this strategy or not, the policing aspect of the effort must handle the technical and crime scene responsibilities, and enforce the rule of law and prepare for the prosecutions.

Peña Nieto has stated that his proposals do not mean that the government will not enforce laws against other crimes nor prevent drug trafficking, but that arresting drug bosses will no longer be the focus of his administration. This statement could have devastating effects in the overall criminal deterrence plan.

This out of control criminal insurgency and complete organized crime-terror nexus is a methodical and ruthless modus operandi of terror, fear and intimidation that includes murder, kidnapping, extortion, political tampering, torture, and human and sex trafficking. The killing and kidnapping of government officials, politicians, police chiefs, mayors, members of the military, and journalists graphically demonstrate this.

Mexico and the areas to the south have eight percent of the world’s population, and 40 percent of the world’s homicides, with 66 percent of the kidnappings. A myriad of innovative policing and carefully designed enforcement plans of action must include policing centralization; overlapping military power where necessary in support; and an acute focus on all elements of crime from the highest levels of drug trafficking to routine street crime.


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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