Mexico's President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto has promised to cut murders and kidnapping by half during his time in office, stating that his strategy will prioritize protecting citizens rather than disrupting gang operations.
The Associated Press reported that Peña Nieto pledged to acheive these ambitious goals over his six-year term, which begins in December.
The president-elect plans to launch a new offensive against the smaller, more locally-based gangs that have proliferated in Mexico in recent years, US congressman Henry Cuellar (Rep, Texas), a close associate of Peña Nieto, told the news agency.
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unlikely that Peña Nieto would be able to bring about such a large drop in the murder rate through his security policies alone. However, there are signs that violence related to organized crime may already have peaked, which could mean that it begin to decline significantly during his premiership.
If Peña Nieto does implement a strategy of going after smaller groups, this would mark a change of focus from the current government. When President Felipe Calderon came to power in 2006, he inherited a criminal landscape dominated by a few hegemonic groups, such as the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, which concentrated on international drug trafficking. Calderon launched an aggressive US-backed campaign to break the power of these organizations, capture their leaders and disrupt their drug shipments.
The rocketing murder rates during his premiership are partly a result of his success in pursuing these goals. Some of the larger groups fragmented under pressure from the authorities, breaking into splinter gangs who now fight bitterly for their share of the territory. Increased security on the US border, and the reduced power of these groups, means many have moved from international drug trafficking to revenue sources with a far greater impact on the civilian population, such as extortion, kidnapping, and local drug dealing.
A recent report from Southern Pulse predicted that these smaller gangs would be the biggest drivers of violence in Mexico over the next few years: "At the hyper-local level, super-powered street gangs, armed with Twitter, You Tube, the weapon of fear, and an enviable armory will man-handle local politicians and municipal police."
The latest news on Peña Nieto's security policy is an encouraging indication that the incoming president has taken note of this new criminal reality and is designing his security policy accordingly.