Mexican Army deploys troops to 13 troubled Mexican states
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By Chris Covert
The Mexican Army is deploying 14,000 effectives to 13 Mexican states it considers hot spots in the drug war, according to Mexican news accounts.
A brief item posted on the website of Reforma news daily Saturday morning said the 13 states receiving deployments include Mexico state, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Morelos, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.
It is worth noting that most of the states are entities used by Los Zetas to bring product, migrants and shooters from central America to the northern border. Notably missing from the list are three of the six northern tier Mexican states, Baja California, Chihuahua and Sonora, all of which have experienced some decline in drug related violence in the past year.
However of those three, Chihuahua has experienced a spike in drug and gang related violence since the start of the year.
Notably absent from the list are states which have also experienced an increase in violence, namely Sinaloa, Jalisco and Michoacan states. Those states have received security reinforcements since the start of the year in the form of Policia Federal units, which now operate under the auspices of the Mexican Secretaria de Gobierno (SEGOB) or interior ministry.
The Mexican national government has shifted the focus of its counternarcotics strategy away from one of confrontation with the several drug gangs currently operating in Mexico using Mexican military forces and by using Policia Federal more to quell violence from drug gangs.
One of the stated goals of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto in the new strategy is to eventually return military forces to the barracks. The strategy is already in motion, according to a statement released by the Mexican Secretaria de Marina (SEMAR), or Mexican Navy. Last week Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz noted in an Organizacion Editorial Mexicano news report that military troops are slowly being removed from the streets to allow Mexico's police to handle counternarcotics operations.
Another element of the new strategy is to divide Mexican into five geographical regions overseen by representatives of the local Mexican Army, Naval infantry, interior ministry and Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) or national attorney general. The idea is to make states more responsible for their security, to combine state resources and general knowledge of their regions and to allow close monitoring of police forces by the federal government. With the representatives of those institutions, several states within the zones are to appoint representatives within 30 days of the law's publication. The law that instituted the five zones was passed December 17th, 2012. Implicit in the law are required regular meetings of the five security zones.
Among the purposes is to provide a means of training and testing local municipal police, and to have that training standardized. Another purpose is to provide a career track for local police for as long as 20 years.
Some of the meetings have already taken place. For example, the latest meeting of the some of the governors of the northwest zone, held at an aircraft hangar at the airport in Chihuahua Friday afternoon demonstrated Pena's strategy as well as his attitude towards politicians of the Mexican state governments.
Procuraduria General la Republica (PGR) or attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) General Cepeda Salvador Cienfuegos, SEMAR Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz and undersecretary of the interior for security Manuel Mondragon y Kalb were in attendance from the federal government.
Sinaloa Governor Mario Lopez Valdez, Baja California Governor Jose Osuna Millan, Baja California Sur Governor Marcos Covarrubias and Sonora Governor Guillermo Padres also attended, as well as Chihuahua Governor Javier Durate and his Fiscalia General del Estado (FGE) or state attorney general, Carlos Manuel Salas.
According to an opinion piece posted in El Heraldo de Chihuahua news daily Saturday morning, among the first acts at the meeting of the federal government was for cellular telephone batteries of the participating governors and their staffs to be seized by federal government staff before the meeting, much to their apparent surprise and dismay.
Perhaps more stark was the statement of SEGOB Miguel Angel Osorio Chong that the days of political flexibility of state governors allowed by the previous two PAN presidents, Vicente Fox and Feipe Calderon were gone and that security in the states was now the responsibility of the SEGOB and the president.
One possible interpretation to SEGOB's statement is that in previous federal governments state governments were allowed flexibility in their security spending, within the parameters set by the Chamber of Deputies. A good example would be two years ago when the Mexican Army was expanded by 18 battalions. State governments were allowed to donate land for the construction of new bases to house the new units, and provide smaller amounts from their budgets for construction.
Now the relationship has changed. One indication of how SEGOB will determine that change is that state governments are probably going to be asked to provide much more of their own budgets for federal government requirements in security.
According to a news report on El Diario de Coahuila news daily website more recently, Coahuila governor Ruben Moreira Valdes announced Friday that 150 more police vehicles are to be purchased and deployed, including 16 patrol cars and 34 pickup trucks. This time half of the MX $68 million cost being borne by Coahuila state. The 50 vehicles are to be "distributed" to the five municipalities of the troubled La Laguna region.
Governor Moreira has been under intense political pressure due to the increased violence in La Laguna and from the notion that his state has ignored the region.
Coahuila is currently faced with an austerity program initiated by the PRI-dominated state legislature after it was discovered that Coahuila had acquired over the course of three years the heaviest per capita debt in Mexico. The pressure mounted by criminal gangs in Torreon, which has virtually closed down the nightlife in there, coupled with a tight budget is creating obvious problems for security in the Coahuila side of La Laguna, even as the Mexican federal government has decided to deploy troops to affected areas.
By contrast, in Zacatecas state, according to a news item posted on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas news daily, the state had already received some of its security allocation in the form of weapons, uniforms and equipment for police totalling MX $5 million. Another MX $18 million has been given for a new police training program, and MX $14.6 million for other security purposes.
According to the article, Zacatecas state Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) Jesus Ortiz Pinto, the Policia Estatal Preventiva (PEP) have expanded their number by 300 percent, although the article does not state the time frame.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com
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