Mexico: Drug War Policy Could Facilitate Corruption

Published: 03 May 2013


Mujtaba Ali

In a dramatic shift from the policies of his predecessor, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made clear that American drug officers will no longer have free reign in Mexico. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that rather than the US working bilaterally with any Mexican law enforcement agency, all cooperation had to be coordinated through the  Mexican Interior Ministry.

A Mexican official told the Associated Press that the move is meant to increase efficiency, and tackle a trend of “a large number of agencies [operating] without coordination.”  No details were released yet on how the Interior Ministry will handle the restructuring of cross-border cooperation, but experts fear that centralization could make the system more corruptible.

The previous Mexican administration of President Felipe Calderon allowed  US law enforcement  direct access to Mexican police, army, and navy units.  Americans liked the system because they could bypass more corrupt agencies and work directly with those they trusted. Peña Nieto’s policy shift will mean an end to direct operations and intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies.

Mexican politics and law enforcement are notoriously corrupt, and its been well established that some officials and police officers work with cartels, either willingly or for fear of harm.  Cartels actually pay better than the government which offers low wages to police who risk their lives on a daily basis.

Experts say that passing all information through a government with a long history of corruption could compromise many operations. While meant to provide information to law enforcement, Peña Nieto’s plan to centralize information sharing could create a treasure trove of information for cartel informants instead.

US President Barack Obama travelled to Mexico on Thursday and officially stated that he supports the Mexican President’s policy shift. Peña Nieto, for his part, has stressed that while the method of cooperation with the US will change, the neighbors’ joint commitment to fight the drug cartels will not waver. The real issue, though, will be whether Peña Nieto’s new policy will just make matters worse.