Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Mexican elections and their impact on the drug war
During the second and final presidential debate, on June 10, the three main candidates in the Mexican election discussed how they would move forward in the continuing drug war. All three pledged a different strategy to that which has been carried out by current president Felipe Calderón, who has focused on using the armed forces as the main form of attack during his tenure. This has led to a death toll "which has spiraled out of control during Mr. Calderón's six-year tenure." Each candidate has mentioned reducing the body count, although the manner in which they plan to achieve this differs.
Below is an overview of the three candidates' strategies for combating the violence in Mexico.
The three candidates:
Enrique Peña Nieto: The current front-runner, for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), stated recently in an interview with the New York Times that
The adjustment in the strategy is to focus on decreasing violence [as opposed to reducing drug trafficking]. And that means that the whole Mexican state, jointly between the three levels of government‚ - state, federal and municipal‚ - should really focus its efforts on combating homicide and the impunity that is a given in many of the homicides committed, as with kidnapping and extortion.
Peña Nieto's promises include:
- Bringing more police to less populated areas. "There are too few police, sometimes without equipment, without weapons, and organized crime . . . ends up easily getting there and taking over these places with small populations."
- Focusing on "combating homicide and the impunity that is a given in many of the homicides committed, as with kidnapping and extortion" primarily through cutting corruption.
- While Peña Nieto says he will continue to work with the United States, he has made clear that Mexico should not be "subordinate to the strategies of other countries."
- Peña Nieto has said he would hire former Colombian police chief, Oscar Naranjo, as a security advisor. A move which could mean continued strong U.S.-Mexican cooperation, according to the Washington Post.
One question being asked is whether Mr. Peña Nieto really would be a new leader for the PRI or simply a return to the old guard which ruled the country for 71 years and which many allege allowed the cartels to exist in return for benefits for the government.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador: AMLO, as he is often known, represents a leftist, three-party coalition called the Progressive Movement. He is a returning candidate who narrowly lost the 2006 election to current president Calderón. López Obrador has had to change his campaign strategy for this election and distance himself from his failed attempt at the presidency, although his attitude towards the drug war has not changed hugely.
AMLO's promises include:
- A holistic strategy he has dubbed "Abrazos, no balazos," or "Hugs, not bullets," which focuses on reducing unemployment and fostering economic growth to end the drug war.
- A new federal police force to replace the army in the streets, though he has not elaborated on how this would be organized.
- He has not ruled out legalizing drugs, but will consult with experts and local governments.
- On collaboration with the U.S.: Rather than increased or continued U.S. military aid, AMLO argues that Mexico would benefit more from receiving economic credits that could be used for social programs.
Although polls present differing views of how close the election is currently, López Obrador is generally agreed to be in second place.
Josefina Vázquez Mota: Vázquez Mota is the first female presidential candidate fielded by a major political party in Mexico, representing the Partido Acción Nacional or PAN, the party of current president Calderón.
Her promises include:
- A return to law and order by establishing a well paid, well-trained police force from within the community.
- A four-pillar approach focusing on security, well-being, productivity, and a sustainable Mexico.
- On collaboration with the U.S.: "We have to continue strengthening our relationship with the United States" in an effort to move forward with the drug war.
This is markedly different from Calderón's increased use of the army in an attempt to tackle corruption within the police force. Although Vázquez Mota was second in the polls at one point, in the past month she has slipped down to third place behind López Obrador.
The election outcome
Only one of these candidates will have the opportunity to take their proposed policies forward past the July 1st election. Although polls currently suggest Peña Nieto is the favorite to win, there has been some indication that the Yarrington scandal, in which President Calderón has accused a former governor and member of the PRI for alleged links with drug cartels and corruption, has damaged the perception of Peña Nieto by association. With just under two weeks remaining, it remains to be seen if he can hold his lead.