Colombia, Mexico Presidents Discuss Security Cooperation

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The presidents of Colombia and Mexico have promised to deepen cooperation on matters of organized crime and security as both countries continue to struggle with longstanding problems related to criminal groups.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto traveled to Colombia on October 27 for a state visit with the president of the South American country, Juan Manuel Santos.

The leaders signed several new agreements related to culture and trade, and also promised to strengthen cooperation in the fight against crime. Specifically, they promised to continue working together to combat trafficking in drugs and arms as well as cell phone theft. 

Peña Nieto — who is overseeing a decade-long crackdown on organized crime started by his predecessor Felipe Calderon — admitted that government efforts to fight crime have often failed to keep pace with the agility of criminal groups.

“We have witnessed how the institutional advancement to combat organized crime has been less accelerated than the capacities that criminal organizations have achieved in both countries,” he said.

President Santos said that Colombia and Mexico “have similar challenges in the fight against organized crime,” and he stated that both nations would “continue cooperating in the fight against transnational crime and drug trafficking,” Milenio reported.

Additionally, Santos highlighted the training that Colombian security forces have provided to their Mexican counterparts in recent years, and said that his country had also received “great support and great help” from Mexico.

Peña Nieto underscored the similar issues facing both countries.

“Colombia and Mexico are two nations that, in the end, are confronting very similar security problems,” the Mexican president said. “We have the presence of cartels that operate in both nations and in a transnational manner.”

“We have promised to deepen our collaboration and cooperation in security matters in order to enrich the public polices that both governments follow to combat the cartels, to combat organized crime, because we recognize it is a common problem,” he added.

Peña Nieto also expressed support for the Santos administration’s efforts to reach a negotiated solution to Colombia’s long-running internal conflict, and pledged to contribute $1 million to demining efforts in the South American nation.

InSight Crime Analysis

Peña Nieto’s assessment that government responses to organized crime in Colombia and Mexico have often lagged behind the evolution of the underworld is accurate. However, vague promises of greater collaboration between the two nations are unlikely to change this dynamic.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

Like many other countries in the Americas, both Colombia and Mexico have tended to rely on militarized strategies for fighting crime groups. This type of approach has proven to have limited long-term impact in terms of reducing the power and presence of organized crime, and has often been accompanied by human rights concerns because of corruption and poor training within the security forces.

In Mexico, the armed forces — which have been deployed across the country as part of a government crackdown on the cartels — have been implicated in some of the most serious human rights abuses in the country’s recent history. And in Colombia, army officials have been involved in extrajudicial killings — most famously in the false positive scandal.

Increased sharing of information between the two countries could be useful, but it is unlikely to address key issues like corruption and the general lack of institutional capacity in both nations.

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