Amidst Mexico President’s Struggles, Advice from Italy

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As Mexico’s president struggles to claw back approval ratings through new security measures announced in the epicenter of his current woes — the state of Guerrero — he may do better heeding advice offered by one of Italy’s leading mafia experts.

Speaking during his first visit to Guerrero since the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Iguala over two months ago, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a series of economic reforms to complement a new security deployment.  He is seeking to get a grip on the state’s security breakdown.

His proposal is based on 11 points, among them plans for a special fund for vulnerable small businesses, temporary employment projects and measures to try and encourage the return of tourism, reported El Universal.

However, the new announcements show little sign of stemming the popular outrage over the disappearances, which has seen Peña Nieto’s popularity at home and reputation abroad nose dive as details of the role of corrupt state institutions in the case have emerged. Protests continue around the country, while parents of the missing youths have even launched their own hunt for their children after complaining bitterly about the failures of the official investigation, reported Proceso. The remains of one of the missing students have been identified charred beyond recognition by the killers.

Among the hail of criticism, the embattled president has received advice from Roberto Saviano, an expert on Italian organized crime and author of the acclaimed mafia book Gomorrah.

Writing in a blog for Reuters, Saviano makes three suggestions: (1) designing better mafia laws that make belonging or contributing to an organized crime structure a criminal offense; (2) setting up a specialized anti-mafia body to help prosecutors join the dots between what often appear to be disparate crimes but which are really related; (3) improving procedures for confiscating assets owned by mafia members or their frontmen.

InSight Crime Analysis

The political crisis sparked by the disappearances has already permanently stained Peña Nieto’s administration. Although he has now launched both local and national reforms in response, these are unlikely to restore his savaged reputation, which was likely damaged further by the fact it took him over two months to even visit the area at the heart of the problems.

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With the national security reforms proposed by Peña Nieto in response to the security crisis receiving at best a lukewarm reception, the president could certainly do worse than listening to the advice of Saviano and study lessons from Italy, where mafia related murders dropped 80 percent between 1992 and 2012, according to the United Nations (pdf).

The key difference between Saviano’s suggestions and Peña Nieto’s proposals is the that the former focuses on long term changes that require a sustained commitment to deep structural reforms to both the legal system and state institutions, exactly what Peña Nieto and his predecessors have consistently failed to deliver.

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