MEXICO CITY – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that his administration was not holding talks with Mexico’s organized crime groups, clarifying statements made by a Cabinet secretary.
“There is no dialogue with members of the organized crime gangs, as they are known. We do not have that kind of relationship,” Lopez Obrador, the founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), said during his daily press conference at the National Palace.
Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said his administration was trying to “find a peace process in the country with the participation of everyone,” especially victims of organized crime groups since “you can’t do anything if you don’t have the consent of the victims.”
The president was asked about comments made by Government Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero, who said on Tuesday that the administration was having talks with “many groups” that were willing to lay down their arms and work toward peace in Mexico.
Sanchez Cordero, however, did not say who the Lopez Obrador administration was having a dialogue with.
The Government Secretariat later said Sanchez Cordero was referring to the community police organizations, the local self-defense groups created by residents in recent years in towns, mainly in the western state of Michoacan and the southern state of Guerrero, to fight robberies, extortion rackets, kidnappings and other types of crimes.
AMLO said his administration would not promote “anything amounting to self-defense (groups),” as previous administrations did in fighting drug traffickers and other organized crime groups.
“The state has to guarantee public safety. We cannot promote the creation of groups to deal with security issues because it does not work and creates much disorder,” AMLO said.
Lopez Obrador said he was “working every day to guarantee peace in the country,” meeting every morning with the security Cabinet to review crime statistics.
The administration is trying to “deal with the causes of violence” and plans to create jobs, get the countryside back on its feet, help young people and fight drug addiction, the president said.
AMLO said he wanted to “consolidate” the National Guard, a new public safety agency made up of soldiers, marines and police under a unified command.
Lopez Obrador has criticized the militarized war on Mexico’s drug cartels waged by President Felipe Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012, a policy that he blames for the wave of violence plaguing the country.
AMLO has has not yet ended the militarization of public safety efforts in Mexico, but he has pointed out the need to reduce poverty to stem the violence.
During the presidential campaign, Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1, said at one point that he was willing to grant an amnesty to some criminals with the approval of victims.
In 2018, 33,000 homicides were reported in Mexico.