Mexico is having some success in fighting the drug traffickers that are causing so much trouble for Mexicans and their government.
President Felipe Calderón and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.And that is what success looks like. It is rather fortunate that the Mexican government is not failing.
One hundred days after calling for a sweeping overhaul of security forces, including a reorganization of the federal police into a single agency, Calderón and his cabinet cited some successes, such as the recent arrest of several drug captains and corrupt officials. But they acknowledged that the extreme violence unleashed in Mexico was daunting.
"We know the challenges are many and that the road that we have to travel is long and difficult. But we cannot and will not back down," said Calderón, who appeared with his government ministers at a day-long National Security Council meeting in which they reported on their fight against organized crime and the drug cartels.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderón declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.
Calderón touted the recent arrest of Noé Ramírez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico's attorney general's office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations.
One point of success is that kidnappings are down 18% after the government broke up 53 kidnapping gangs. A rough extrapolation tells us that there were something like 250 gangs of kidnappers before the crackdown. Now down to around 200.
And here is another huge success. They are testing the qualifications of police officers already on the force.
In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, Calderón reported Thursday that half of the 56,000 police officers evaluated in a federal review failed to reach minimum standards. The examinations included drug and lie detector tests, psychological profiling and reviews of personal wealth.Well isn't that something. Only half are failing on average. Fortunately the failure rate along the border is not 100%. That would be a real disaster.
Almost 50 percent of the officers tested, who work at the municipal, state and federal levels, received a "not recommended" rating. In states where violence and drug trafficking are greatest, the police fared the worst.
In the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, almost 90 percent of the officers received failing grades. It is not known how many will be fired or retrained. There are more than 375,000 police officers in Mexico.
The revelation that so many rank-and-file police officers fail to pass scrutiny is likely to come as no surprise to most Mexicans, who harbor deep distrust of law enforcement officers. A poll released Friday by a Mexican research group found that 60 percent of Mexicans do not feel safe and that the great majority do not report crimes because they distrust the police.
It could be worse. And I'm betting that before long it will be.
Cross Posted at Classical Values