Mexican official decries security

Top cop signals shift in strategy to combat violent drug cartels

By E. Eduardo Castillo and Michael Weissenstein

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 10:50 p.m. MST

MEXICO CITY — A top official in Mexico's new government on Monday harshly criticized the country's U.S.-backed attack on drug cartel leaders for causing violence to surge, even as the incoming team offered an alternate security strategy largely devoid of details.

Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong opened a meeting of the National Security Council saying that under the strategy of former President Felipe Calderon, who left office Dec. 1, "financial resources dedicated to security have more than doubled, but unfortunately crime has increased."

With the capture of dozens of drug capos, an achievement trumpeted by Calderon, "we have moved from a scheme of vertical leadership to a horizontal one that has made them more violent and much more dangerous," Osorio told the heads of the military and the governors of Mexico's 31 states.

"The rate of increase in homicides places us among the highest in the world," he said. "In recent years, because of the violence linked to organized crime, thousands of people have died and thousands of people have disappeared."

Calderon repeatedly said before leaving office that his forces had captured 25 of Mexico's 37 most-wanted drug lords, a strategy backed by the U.S. government with hundreds of millions in funding and close cooperation with American law-enforcement, military and intelligence agencies.

Osorio Chong and President Enrique Pena Nieto have promised to adjust Calderon's strategy in order to move away from a focus on killing and capturing cartel leaders and toward a focus on reducing crimes against ordinary citizens, most important homicides, kidnappings and extortion.

Nearly three weeks into their administration, they have offered few details on how they will actually do that. At Monday's meeting, they offered a few more specifics, but there was no indication of any grand readjustment in Mexico's security policy.

The administration said it would divide Mexico into five regions for the purposes of security planning, allowing them to design tactics specific to problems that vary widely across Mexico. It did not, however, say what those five regions would be.

Pena Nieto told the meeting that he would launch a new body of paramilitary police by enlisting 10,000 officers. He offered no time line, or indication of where those officers would be recruited.

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