Mexico Official Signals Shift Away from Militarized Security Strategy

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Mexico’s Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong recently said that long-term security gains in the country will depend on improving socioeconomic conditions, signaling a possible shift away from the heavy-handed anti-crime strategy the government has pursued for years.

According to a government press release, Osorio Chong said Mexico is moving away from all-out combat against criminal groups and toward policies aimed at creating a “strong social fabric” and generating “effective opportunities for individual and collective development.”

Osorio Chong made the comments at the Second Mexico-European Union Public Security and Law Enforcement Dialogue.

The Interior Secretary also highlighted the importance of improving human rights protections, reforming the judicial and penal systems, and strengthening local security institutions.

Osorio Chong’s comments come as Mexico experiences an increase in criminal violence.

A recent report from the Mexican organization Semáforo Delictivo documented a 15 percent increase in murders related to organized crime during the first four months of this year. Kidnappings and extortion, on the other hand, fell slightly during that time period.

InSight Crime Analysis

Osorio Chong’s remarks seem to indicate an acknowledgement that dealing with Mexico’s complex security challenges will require taking a holistic approach. This is more easily said than done, however, especially given the deeply-ingrained nature of the country’s current security strategy.

As a recent report from the New York Times points out, Mexico’s military has played a key role in combating the country’s drug cartels for nearly a decade. But the involvement of the armed forces in anti-crime efforts has been marred by well-substantiated allegations of serious human rights abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings, for which accountability has often proven elusive. The head of Mexico‘s National Defense Secretariat recently called the deployment of troops to take on drug traffickers a “mistake.”

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And yet, Mexico has struggled to reduce the military’s role in domestic security. Despite promising a greater focus on so-called “softer” approaches such as violence reduction and crime prevention, President Enrique Enrique Peña Nieto has continued to rely on federal troops, especially in areas with a strong organized crime presence. 

The reasons for the continued militarization of Mexico’s internal security are manifold, but at the top of the list are the country’s weak and corrupt police forces. According to a 2014 report from the Wilson Center citing Mexican government statistics from 2012 (pdf), most Mexican citizens have little or no trust in federal, state and local police. Politicians are therefore encouraged to choose short-term solutions such as troop surges rather than more sustainable security strategies. 

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