Drug Cartels Wield Power in 68% of Mexico: Representative

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As Mexico’s president-elect sizes up the country’s criminal landscape, a congresswoman has claimed that nearly 70 percent of the country’s municipalities have been infiltrated by organized crime.

After winning the presidency in Sunday’s elections, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has moved to back his campaign promises on security with specific goals. This week it was reported that he hopes to halve the number of kidnappings and murders during his term by shifting the emphasis of law enforcement away from high-profile arrests and drug busts to focus on local, small-scale gangs.

On the heels of this pledge, El Sol de Mexico reported that congresswoman Maria de Jesus Aguirre Maldonado (pictured) presented a sobering set of statistics to the Mexican House of Representatives which suggest it will be easier said than done. According to Aguirre, who is also from the PRI, and a member of the Public Security Committee, organized criminal syndicates have penetrated 68 percent of the country’s 2,438 municipalities.

The congresswoman argued that Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna should be called to testify before Congress to explain the disturbing scope of control of criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The source of Aguirre’s statistics was not clear, but their content is nothing new. In January, Assistant Attorney General Cuitlahuac Salinas claimed that 23 of Mexico’s 32 sub-national entities (31 states and the federal district in Mexico City) had a significant presence of criminal groups.

Such assessments of criminal influence are always problematic. Even if Aguirre’s figures are accurate, the nature of criminal influence still varies from location to location. Just because a drug cartel exerts inflence in a municipality, or has corrupted some members of a local government, does not mean that they have complete authority over that government, as InSight Crime has pointed out.

Nevertheless, the remarks come as a reminder that Peña Nieto’s election will not be a “quick fix” for the problem of insecurity. The pervasive presence of drug cartels throughout Mexico means that he will likely face similar problems as current President Felipe Calderon has in reining in violent criminal activity.

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