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Peña Nieto Announces Public Security Reforms

MEXICO / 15 NOV 2012 BY CLAIRE O NEILL MCCLESKEY EN

Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, plans to reorganize the government's security agencies, handing greater powers to the Interior Ministry, but it remains to be seen whether the shift will mean a change of overall strategy from that of the current president, Felipe Calderon.

Peña Nieto, who will take office on December 1, stated that the reforms will help better organize the Mexican government and improve its ability to fight corruption and crime, reported El Universal.

The administrative reforms would eliminate the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) and place the functions of internal security -- including crime prevention, the penitentiary system, and the Federal Police -- under the control of the Interior Ministry. This change would signify a return to the ministry's responsibilities prior to 2000 when Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was last in power. The SSP was created by Vicente Fox's administration in 2000.

Peña Nieto also plans to eliminate the Civil Service Secretariat (SFP) and replace it with a new National Anti-Corruption Commission, an independent body tasked with investigating official corruption at all three levels of government, reported EFE.

A professor at Tecnologico de Monterrey's Graduate School of Public Administration and Public Policy told the Associated Press that these reforms represent a "disqualification" of outgoing president Felipe Calderon's strategy.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is too early to tell to what degree Peña Nieto will break with his predecessor's policies. While the president-elect has stated that he intends to prioritize lowering murder, kidnapping, and extortion rates, suggesting a shift away from Calderon's "kingpin strategy," -- one which emphasized targeting the heads of criminal gangs -- he has also declared his support for the continued use of the military to fight organized crime.

As Peña Nieto has indicated, his planned administrative reforms are aimed at centralizing the Mexican federal government's public security apparatuses, which often struggle with inter-agency coordination and information sharing. These do not necessarily represent a dramatic departure from the previous administration, however.

Many of the reforms proposed by Peña Nieto, both during his campaign and after his election, have yet to be fully outlined in detail. For example, while he has frequently touted the idea of creating a 40,000-member "national gendarmarie," he has yet to provide any details on who would make up the force, how it would be organized, and how it would contribute to public security.

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