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Mexico's presidential election in July
« on: April 20, 2012, 08:12:05 AM »
By Scott Stewart

Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, the front-runner in the lead-up to Mexico's presidential election in July, told Reuters last week that if elected, he would seek to increase the size of the current Mexican federal police force. Pena Nieto also expressed a desire to create a new national gendarmerie, or paramilitary police force, to use in place of the Mexican army and Marine troops currently deployed to combat the heavily armed criminal cartels in Mexico's most violent hot spots. According to Pena Nieto, the new gendarmerie force would comprise some 40,000 agents.

As Stratfor has previously noted, soldiers are not optimal for law enforcement functions. The use of the military in this manner has produced accusations of human rights abuses and has brought criticism and political pressure on the administration of President Felipe Calderon. However, while the Calderon administration greatly increased the use of the military in the drug war, it was not the first administration in Mexico to deploy the military in this manner. Even former President Vicente Fox, who declared war on the cartels in 2001, was not the first to use the military in this manner. For many decades now, the Mexican government has used the military in counternarcotics operations, and the Mexican military has been used periodically to combat criminals and bandits in Mexico's wild and expansive north for well over a century.

In recent years, Mexico has had very little choice but to use the military against the cartels due to the violent nature of the cartels themselves and the rampant corruption in many municipal and state police forces. The creation of a new paramilitary police force would provide the Mexican government with a new option, allowing it to remove the military from law enforcement functions. But such a plan would be very expensive and would require the consent of both houses of the Mexican Congress, which could pose political obstacles. But perhaps the most difficult task will be creating a new police force not susceptible to the corruption that historically has plagued Mexican law enforcement agencies.

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