Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto discussed his proposed plan to create a specialized military force under civilian control in a recent interview, but has yet again failed to deliver the details of the plan.

Peña Nieto talked about his security plan in an interview with the Financial Times, which he said would prioritize reducing the violence endemic throughout the country rather than confronting the cartels directly, a departure from the strategy of the past six years. He claimed the change in policy was a response to the demands of the Mexican people. “[Violence] is the most sensitive issue for Mexicans.”

Part of Peña Nieto’s strategy is to create a 40,000-member force “of military origin” controlled by civilian authorities, known as a gendarmerie. First proposed in April, Peña Nieto’s gendarmerie would “support municipalities with great institutional weaknesses or those with very few or no police.” The President-elect expects immediate results from the deployment of this force.

InSight Crime Analysis

InSight Crime has reported on the larger security strategy proposed by Enrique Peña Nieto, including sustaining the military campaign against the drug cartels, however the gendarmerie is one of the more vague and puzzling reforms. Peña Nieto has not explained what “of military origin” really means or where the force would fit into the Mexican security force landscape. It is unclear whether the force would be comprised of current or former military officers and whether it would replace or support the armed forces in the fight against organized crime.

In May, Alejandro Hope detailed the unanswered questions regarding the gendarmerie on his blog. In one scenario, Hope suggests that the 40,000 members would be drawn from the military and would then replace the armed forces in policing violent areas. It seems that the new force would not be much different than keeping those 40,000 troops under military command. As Hope points out, “unless the [new] uniform is magic,” in this scenario the gendarmerie would be basically the same people performing the same function with the same equipment and organization.

In a second scenario, the new force would be drawn from the armed forces and support them in problem areas. Maintaining the same issue of redundancy from scenario one, scenario two would also eliminate the only advantage of having a gendarmerie: no direct military supervision or involvement.

A final option is that the new force could be comprised of ex-members of the military. However, Hope points out, the two largest pools from which to recruit ex-members of the military would be the retired and deserters, neither of which are desirable members for the new gendarmerie.

The redundancy of the gendarmerie gives Peña Nieto’s critics an opening to suggest he is playing to the frustrations of the Mexican people by suggesting reforms simply for the sake of changing the strategy, even if it does not really improve the security situation in the country.

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