Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mexico’s President Unveils 'New' Security Strategy

On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the framework for his young administration’s national security strategy, as El Universal reports.  After acknowledging that the country’s approach to organized crime over the past several years has not been successful, the president said he would be "opening a new path, a new route and a new way to address the security of the Mexican people." 

Unfortunately, as the AP points out, the outline of Peña Nieto’s security strategy bears a strong resemblance to that of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.  While it includes several provisions that may appeal to human rights advocates, it maintains the most controversial element of Calderon’s policies: a reliance on the military for internal security.

According to El Universal, two of the plan’s six pillars specifically involve civil society: one calls for respect for human rights and accountability and another requires “citizen participation” in security policy. The inclusion of this language appears to be largely the work of lobbying by leftist lawmakers. In an interview with Milenio, president of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) Jesus Zambrano said that the plan “carries the flag of the left,” and that it will also likely involve an emphasis on drug treatment programs. 

Peña Nieto’s strategy also seeks to create a new federal law enforcement body, named the National Gendarmerie. The president said that the new force will start off with 10,000 members, although he did not give a timeline for its creation. 

As the L.A. Times notes, the move is likely an effort to de-emphasize the role of the federal police, and comes after the embarrassing incident in which federal police agents fired on CIA agents in August. 

While Peña Nieto’s intention to establish the Gendarmerie is nothing new (he first proposed it while on the campaign trail), it is not without controversy. Some analysts, like Mexican security expert Alejandro Hope, argue that the country would be better served by reforming its current security forces than by creating a new one.

New Briefs

  • A New York Times investigation profiles Wal-Mart’s questionable business practices in Mexico, where the paper claims that the corporation “was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business….[but] an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited.”
  • Chile’s Minister of Justice, Teodoro Ribera, resigned yesterday amid a scandal over his alleged ties to a former education official accused of illegally accrediting a number of universities in the country. Ribera made the announcement in a televised address on Monday, in which he also denied any wrongdoing.
  • The BBC reports on the conclusion of the historic mensalão corruption trial in Brazil, which came to an end yesterday after the Supreme Court ruled to strip three congressmen linked to the scandal of their seats. A total of 25 people were convicted in the course of the trial.
  • The AP has a summary of the state of the political crisis in Honduras, which was temporarily put on hold after government offices closed yesterday. The showdown between the executive, legislative and judicial branches is set to begin again on January 3, when the government resumes activity.
  • Bolivia’s Catholic Church and the country’s main human rights organization have come out against the Bolivian government’s planned highway through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park (TIPNIS), saying that the initiative violates the sovereignty of indigenous communities in the area. La Razon reports that the two issued the statement after a process of consultation with locals, in which 30 of 36 communities in the TIPNIS rejected the project.
  • A brutal attack on an Afro-Uruguayan woman in Montevideo on Monday sparked a wave of condemnation from citizens and authorities in Uruguay, and has the country assessing the pervasiveness of racism there, the AFP reports.
  • Analyst James Bosworth offers a tidy overview of the main takeaway points from Sunday’s gubernatorial elections in Venezuela, noting that while opposition figure Henrique Capriles Radonski won reelection in Miranda state, the vote was by and large a disaster for the opposition.
  • El Espectador reports that a civil society-led conference on rural development facilitated by the United Nations is underway in Bogota, Colombia. According to Semana, the 1,200 delegates gathered at the event hope to submit an agrarian reform proposal to the government to supplement the ongoing peace talks with FARC rebels.  
  • Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund assesses the implications of Colombia’s recently-approved military justice reform bill, noting that it could mean total impunity for military officers accused of human rights abuses in the country.
  • After receiving the approval of a judge on Friday, the administration of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced yesterday that it has begun the process of breaking up the Clarin media group, and is preparing to auction off its media licenses. According to the AP, the process is expected to last some 100 days, during which time Clarin will be required to sort out its remaining holdings and keep all of its current employees.
  • The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) takes a look at a bill recently passed in the US Congress which aims to limit the influence of Iran in the Western Hemisphere.  The CEPR makes a compelling comparison between the bill and the Monroe Doctrine, arguing that it will only serve to further isolate the US from Latin America.

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