The government claims it intended to implement President Enrique Pena Nieto’s proposal that the country eliminate over 1,800 municipal police departments and create new state-based police units. Pena made the suggestion in early December as the political crisis created by the Iguala Massacre continued unabated. The Iguala Massacre (the September mass murder of 43 students from Ayotzinapa Teachers College in Guerrero state) provided a textbook case and hideously violent example of how a crooked local government aligned with an organized criminal gang uses corrupt police force to enforce its political whim. The students were abducted and killed on orders from the city’s mayor, with input from his wife. The wife, who intended to run for mayor and succeed her husband, had family connections with the local branch of a drug cartel. The local cops passed the arrested students on to gang members who then killed them. The gangsters then burned the students’ bodies. If it sounds feudal, it is. And Mexicans won’t take it anymore. There is also disappointment at the recent corruption accusations against Pena.
Pena’s proposal has backers and detractors. How would the government go about replacing 1,800 local forces? No one is quite sure, though the initial reform would establish 32 state police corps. Presumably a state-controlled corps would assign detachments to municipalities and monitor their operations. Detractors ask what prevents crooked state and federal politicians and police from corrupting the system? No one is quite sure about that, either. The federal government knows how to take operational control of a town. It has already taken over police duties in several major cities and towns. The Federales (federal police) have around 1,600 policemen patrolling Acapulco (Guerrero state’s metropolis). The military is coordinating police operations in Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. The question is, how to create replacements. Former president Felipe Calderon, whom Pena derided during the 2012 election for militarizing the Cartel War, had a bottom up program to rebuild police and judicial institutions. That is a painfully slow process and one that involves persistent presidential leadership. Ironically, Pena’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) opposed Calderon’s program. (Austin Bay)
December 30, 2014: For the first time in memory Mexicans were the minority of people arrested trying to enter the United States illegally. In the last year there were 16 percent more arrests at the border (for a total of nearly half a million). This is a sharp decline since the peak year of 2000, when 1.6 million arrests were made. As the number of Mexicans arrested declined, there was a sharp increase in those from Central America (especially El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua). Mexico has long treated Central American illegal migrants the same way the U.S. treats illegals from Mexico. The main cause of declining illegal Mexican migration to the U.S. is the 2008 recession and the sharp decrease in jobs available in the United States. Thus the arrests for Mexicans went from 809,000 in 2007 to 257,000 in 2013 and 229,000 in the last year.
December 27, 2014: Protestors in the town of Iguala (Guerrero state) stormed the gates of a military garrison demanding justice in the Iguala Massacre investigation. A group of demonstrators managed to spray paint walls in near a headquarters of the 41st Infantry Battalion. Since early October, protestors have accused the army of failing to intervene on September 26 to protect student activists from assault by corrupt local police.
December 26, 2014: Security forces in Michoacan state arrested local defense force leader Hippolito Mora on murder charges and for his role in a gun battle on December 16 in the town of La Ruana. Another 26 people were arrested for involvement in the incident. Eleven people died in the gunfight which pitted Mora’s militia against that of a rival, Luis Antonio Torres. Torres also faces murder charges but has evaded arrest.
Authorities in Guerrero state discovered the body of a kidnapped Catholic priest, Reverend Gregorio Lopez Gorostieta near the town of Ciudad Altamirano. He had been shot through the head execution-style. He disappeared just before Christmas. He is the third priest to be murdered in Guerrero recently.
December 25, 2014: Demonstrators in Mexico City staged a protest at the German embassy claiming that a German company had sold G36 assault rifles to the Iguala municipal police department. Media indicated the rifles had been sold to police departments in Guerrero state. The sale is likely legitimate -- the German manufacturer has made that claim. The protestors, however, are trying to embarrass the Mexican government and force it to address systemic political corruption.
December 22, 2014: National prosecutors believe that the municipal police force in San Fernando helped Los Zetas drug cartel massacre 193 Central American migrants. The bodies were found in 47 different graves. The crimes occurred in 2011 and that local police in the city of San Fernando (Tamaulipas state) were involved. The evidence indicates that the San Fernando police also worked as scouts and lookouts for Los Zetas.
December 18, 2014: In the wake of a gunfight between two rival militias, as task force of 400 soldiers and federal police reinforced security units in La Ruana. The deployment is a show of force to assert control and to demonstrate to local defense groups that the national government is willing to act. Many national security officials remain very wary of the local defense groups and still refer to them as vigilante organizations.
December 17, 2014: Eleven people were killed in a gun battle in the town of La Ruana (Michoacan state). Security officials reported that the clash involved two local defense groups. The groups are led by two long-time (and bitter) rivals. One of the men killed was the son of one of the defense groups. The rival groups claim that the other works for the Knights Templar drug cartel.
December 15, 2014: Protestors in Mexico City and Guerrero state say that leaked government documents show that federal security officials were aware of the illegal police action in Iguala on September 26 and 27, in which 43 students were abducted. The claim is a bombshell, but major media outlets also claim they have seen the reports which draw on classified Guerrero state police investigations in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
December 14, 2014: Several local defense groups (communitarios or autodefensas) staged armed protests in Michoacan state. The groups, after setting up road blocks in six towns, accused the government of failing to protect their communities from a reviving Knights Templar cartel and a new cartel faction, Los Viagras (no kidding). The protest was awkward for security forces since several of the local defense groups now belong to the Rural Defense Forces. Belonging to the Rurales gives the local militias a legal status.
December 10, 2014: Major media are calling President Pena’s proposed elimination and replacement of several hundred municipal police departments hasty, improvised and unplanned.
December 9, 2013: Transparency International has released its 2014 corruption rating (Corruption Perceptions Index). Mexico ranks 103 out of 175 countries. Transparency International uses many criteria to evaluate corruption, but the final product is a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being very clean and honest. Mexico scored a 35. The two most corrupt nations have a rating of 8 and the least corrupt (Denmark) is 92. African nations are the most corrupt, followed by Middle Eastern ones. Mexico has the world’s 15th largest economy.
December 8, 2014: Protestors in several major cities are demanding that the government move forward and implement the anti-corruption provisions of the Pact for Mexico (Pacto por Mexico). The legislature and executive branch agreed to the pact in early 2013. President Pena (a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI) proposed it and the pact attracted the support of many members of the main opposition party, the National Action Party (PAN) and key support from several leaders in the hard left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The pact had 95 initiatives, but the goal was to improve democratic governance, improve public security and spur economic growth. In the aftermath of the Iguala Massacre, public trust in government is at an all-time low and in Mexico that is saying something. The pact called for the creation of a National Anti-Corruption Commission. The parties agreed that the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information and Data Protection would have increased autonomy and broader investigative powers. So far it has not happened. (Austin Bay)
December 7, 2014: Forensic detectives have positively identified the remains of one of the 43 students murdered in Iguala. An Argentinian forensic team is helping Mexican investigators analyze the remains. The government is also making use of other international resources.