MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday announced a series of measures intended to stem the infiltration of organized crime into municipalities and city halls around the country after the wave of protests over the disappearance of 43 teaching students two months ago in the southern state of Guerrero.
In a national address, Peña Nieto made clear that the states with the greatest institutional weaknesses are Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan and Tamaulipas, where he will concentrate security efforts during the first phase of his plan.
He said that he shares in “society’s demand for justice” after the events in the Guerrero town of Iguala, which he called the “most cowardly and cruel attack by organized crime” in complicity with corrupt police.
That incident resulted in the confirmed deaths of six people, some 20 wounded and the disappearance of 43 teaching students.
“These acts of barbarism cannot remain unpunished,” the president said and those who have taken to the streets “are right: after Iguala, Mexico must change.”
Peña Nieto committed himself to doing everything necessary to free the country “from criminality, (and) combat corruption and impunity,” calling on Mexicans not to become pessimistic and not to resort to violence or vandalism to demand justice.
Peña Nieto also announced that on Monday he will present to Congress three constitutional reforms, one to create single police forces in the country’s 32 states, another to combat the infiltration of organized crime in the municipalities and the third to define the responsibilities and jurisdictions of all authorities in the fight against crime.
The first reform is aimed at “going from more than 1,800 weak municipal police forces, which easily can be corrupted by crime, to 32 solid state security bodies that will be more trustworthy, more professional and more efficient,” he said, adding that the focus will be in the four states in question.
The second reform will result in “dissolving” a city hall “when sufficient indications exist that the local authorities are involved with organized crime,” as happened with Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who is under arrest as the intellectual author of the attacks on the teaching students.
Regarding the third initiative, Peña Nieto explained that it will redefine the responsibilities of the authorities in the anti-crime fight, “taking into account the institutional strengths of the different levels of government,” federal, state and municipal.
“When everybody has responsibility, in reality nobody has it,” said the president, complaining that the “complex system of penal responsibilities” in Mexico “creates dispersed responsibilities, confusion in enforcing the law and, the most serious thing, impunity.”
The president also revealed the creation of three special economic zones including Guerrero, Michoacan, Chiapas and Oaxaca, the country’s poorest states, via a legal initiative to spur development, trade and infrastructure that will be sent to Congress in February 2015.