Former Colombian Police Director Joins Mexican Front-Runner’s Campaign

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The likely winner of Mexico’s upcoming presidential election has asked Colombia’s former national police chief to assist him as an advisor, an apparent bid to boost the candidate’s security credentials.

On June 14 Oscar Naranjo, Colombia’s recently-retired national police director, told reporters that the candidate in Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Enrique Peña Nieto, had contacted him and requested that he serve as a security consultant. Should Peña Nieto win next month’s elections – and polls suggest that he will – Oscar Naranjo will be kept on as an advisor to the president.

The announcement came just two days after the Colombian official formally stepped down from his position as head of the country’s national police, ending a successful 36 year-long career.

InSight Crime Analysis

Naranjo is highly regarded for his success in cracking down on criminal activity and insecurity in Colombia. In addition to overseeing the capture or surrender of several top drug lords, he is credited with reducing homicides in the country.

Naranjo’s appointment allows Peña Nieto to strike back against his critics who (recalling the PRI’s heavy-handed past) have speculated that he intends to make deals with drug traffickers. While he has not offered a significant alternative to the prevailing security strategy in the country, Peña Nieto has focused much of his security rhetoric on reducing violence rather than capturing and killing top drug bosses, leading some to question his commitment to the country’s war on drugs. Because of Naranjo’s high profile, the move was likely designed to portray the candidate as more “tough” on crime.

However, it remains to be seen whether Naranjo will be able to live up to his legacy and contribute to a drop in violence in Mexico. It will not be easy, as the two have have very different security situations. Perhaps the most significant difference is the relationship of the conflict to physical control of land. Control of geographical territory is a key feature of Colombia’s violence, whereas in Mexico the violence is centered more around key borderland hotspots. Ultimately, while Naranjo’s relative success against criminal elements is encouraging, he cannot provide a blueprint for officials in Mexico to achieve the same results.

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