President Felipe Calderon proposed to Mexico's Congress on Wednesday that the country's nearly 2,000 municipal police forces be consolidated with 32 state agencies that he believes will be better equipped to take on the country's rampaging gangsters.
"We must have coordinated police forces, capable of
guaranteeing Mexican's security," Calderon said at a ceremony honoring
federal police officers. "It's time cities count on trustworthy police at
all levels of government to protect the lives, liberty, property and rights of
Calderon's plan has the backing of Mexico's governors and
much of Congress but is, not surprisingly, opposed by the majority of Mexico's
mayors. The mayors argue that putting the country's public security in the
governors' hands will further weaken the country's federal system, which has
slowly recovered from the one party rule that reigned in Mexico for most of the
"We understand the situation of the country in
regard to public security and we also understand the need to close ranks in the
fight against criminal scourge we suffer," Azucena Olivarez Villagomez,
mayor of the huge Mexico City suburb of Naucalpan and president of Mexico's
Association of Municipalities, told Calderon during hearings in August.
"Nonetheless we think that the municipal governments are obligated to
actively take part in the eradication of crime."
Calderon has relied heavily on federal police, army
troops and marines in his crackdown on Mexico's powerful and well-financed drug
trafficking gangs. Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in nearly four years
of violence the campaign unleashed.
But more than 90 percent of crimes in Mexico fall under
local and state jurisdiction. And nine out of 10 of the country's 430,000
public security officers are in state and local forces.
Poorly trained, equipped
The majority of municipal officers are woefully trained,
paid and equipped. Some 400 of Mexico's more than 2,400 municipalities have no
police force at all, and 90 percent of those that do employ fewer than 100
officers, Calderon said.
With most local officers earning less than $300 a month,
corruption is rampant. Active and former municipal officers long have filled
the ranks of criminal gangs, either as gunmen or informants.
"They are the most vulnerable, the easiest to
locate, the most co-optable," Calderon said, "the most subjected to
the intimidation and, of course, the vengeance of the criminals who act with
impunity in many parts of the country."
State police have often proved no better, with corruption
endemic among many detective squads.
But the governor of Nuevo Leon, the state bordering south
Texas that includes Monterrey, already has started efforts to meld local forces
into a unified state command. A similar effort started last February in the
Pacific Coast state of Nayarit was abandoned last month as a failure.
Congress is expected to take up Calderon's proposal in
this fall's session. The president of Mexico's senate, Manlio Fabio Beltrones,
has expressed support for the plan, saying "we will have to approve
Like Calderon, Beltrones points out that local police
forces have proved both unable and often unwilling to take on better armed and
"I see state governors very worried and mayors
terrified because they don't have enough force to confront them," said
Beltrones. "It's very difficult to ask a municipal officer not to be