Giving up on the State? Leaving public security to the market

Terra L. Stanley

The Mexican government’s incapacity to provide security —a key State function— to its citizenry has most recently been observed in the debate about self-defense groups, most notably in Michoacán, and their legitimacy in seizing a central State responsibility. Another matter that serves to question the State’s capacity, while less in the media spotlight, regards the increase of private security firms, most of which are illegal, in Mexico. In the 1990s, private security in Mexico saw a big increase. About 10,000 private security companies operate in Mexico below diverse and discretional standards.  The expansion of the private security sector in Mexico has served to advance social inequality, take pressure off the State, and reduce citizen responsibility —three factors impairing democracy in Mexico.

Continuar leyendo

The Michoacán “Rescue” Simulation

Last week President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a public security strategy to “rescue” Michoacán, a troubled Western state controlled by the Knights Templar, a criminal organization specializing in methamphetamine trafficking, extortion, and illegal iron ore mining. The plan, “For Michoacán, together we can do it,” is a $3.5 billion effort laying out 250 concrete actions to be implemented in 2014, and is based on five pillars: local economy and employment, education and culture for prosperity, modern infrastructure and decent housing, health and social security, and social development and sustainability.

By comparing this plan to the 2010 federal strategy to rescue Ciudad Juárez, Todos Somos Juárez (We are all Juárez), and questioning where the Michoacán plan fits in with the feeble National Program for Social Prevention of Violence and Delinquency (PNPSVD), I seriously doubt the viability of this federal plan. The social and cultural prevention approach is necessary, but Michoacán lacks a solid civil society to oversee the successful channeling of the $3.5 billion into the designated areas. The plan lacks institutional reform to counter impunity and advance criminal investigations.

I conclude by insisting on additions to the social and cultural strategies, such as the embracing of comprehensive diagnostics, clear time tables, and a detailed proposal of judicial, transparency, and penal reform, as well as funds (something vague of this sort was mentioned last week in Morelia) toward autonomous criminology and research centers that investigate violence and criminal behavior. A factor contributing to the security nightmare is the lack of public information –the ability to know what happened and why. Only through understanding behavior can we create tangible solutions. Moreover, Mexico will never alleviate the crisis without being able to determine, and release to the public, the victims’ and victimizers’ names and backgrounds. Reconciliation is a word, regrettably, lacking from public discourse.

Continuar leyendo

Crime prevention efforts in U.S.-Mexico cooperation

Last week U-T San Diego, a leading San Diego local news source, published an article by Sandra Dibble on the Tijuana branch of Asociación Scouts de México, a Scouts group to help at-risk youth resist entrance to drug gangs. Young boys build teamwork skills and friendships. “I’m not going out into the street as much,” said one boy. “I like the activities, the singing, and the challenges the Scouts give us. I like that a lot,” said another.

This program is one example of several community programs in Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Monterrey that receives U.S. support through the Mérida Initiative, the bilateral security plan between Mexico and the United States. The idea, said Thomas Delaney, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development office in Mexico, is to look at places “that can be models for innovations in crime and violence prevention.”

These community programs are extremely important in the process of reducing violence and gang participation. Where students face poverty, drug addiction, broken families or a lack of supervision—local conditions according to a principal of a public middle school in Granjas Familiares—stricter policing and more military tanks will not reverse those conditions or incentives to join criminal groups. Although the Scouts program represents an innovative approach that deserves implementation and time to test the results, the majority of Mérida Initiative and Mexican government funding continues to channel toward militarized tactics to combat the drug cartels.

Continuar leyendo

Violence under control: successful State policy or successful organized crime?

Despite President Enrique Peña Nieto’s reform blitz, which has sought legal restructuring of the energy, telecommunications, fiscal, and education sectors, and collided with many groups throughout Mexico, his plan to address violence remains vague. In his first State of the Union Address last week, he highlighted the 13.7 percent drop in the murder rate between January and August of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. Peña Nieto stated the strategy has focused on violence reduction and concentration of State forces in the most dangerous areas, although a clear rupture between his strategy and that of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, is imprecise.

In these muddy waters, Peña’s security team must begin to decide how this administration can chart a new, comprehensible path toward violence reduction. Even if Peña could cut the murder rate in half, by the time of the mid-term elections more than 20,000 people will have been murdered during his administration. A good way to launch the new plan would be to analyze where and how violence has been contained in Mexico.

Continuar leyendo

Failed Policy, Fatigued Rhetoric.

Terra L. Stanley

Last May President Barack Obama met with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City to discuss immigration, economic cooperation, and even an anticipated academic exchange program between Mexico and the United States. According to analysts, the meeting radiated optimism for the binational relationship.

Continuar leyendo

Más artículos...

  • 1
  • 2