Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to establish a new national police force with the aim of stemming the violent crime that has exploded in recent years as a result of the drug wars.
The new force, once it is trained, is intended to focus on general law enforcement and will eventually replace roughly 50,000 military troops that have been deployed to fight the drug cartels.
Peña Nieto, who took office Dec. 1, had said he would shift Mexico’s policy on combating the cartels by focusing on increasing security.
"Mexicans want peace," Peña Nieto said Monday during a press conference, the BBC reported.
Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderon began an offensive strategy against the drug cartels in 2006, deploying the military to crack down on traffickers and target cartel leaders. The plan has backfired disastrously and since then, some 60,000 Mexicans have died.
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Peña Nieto’s newly appointed Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong criticized the Calderon strategy in comments he made Monday, saying that it had resulted in an increase in security spending alongside an increase in violent crime.
Under the previous administration, kidnappings went up by 83 percent, violent robberies by 65 percent and extortion by 40 percent, according to Osorio, the BBC reported.
He also drew attention to wages and education among law enforcement, pointing out that roughly three out of five police officers only make around $300 a month and two out of three have not completed high school.
Low wages have often been pointed to as a major factor in police corruption as many officers supplement their incomes with bribes from the cartels. There was no mention of how much members of the new national police force would be making.
The new force will reportedly start with a number of 10,000, though it is expected to eventually reach 40,000 and consist of 15 federal units. The military will continue to carry out security duties until the entire force is trained.
Peña Nieto did not indicate how soon the force would be recruited and trained, but said it would focus on reducing kidnappings and extortion.
There has been concern, particularly among some U.S. officials, that Peña Nieto’s focus on increasing security will mean less emphasis on reducing drug trafficking, though he has stated that he will continue to work closely with U.S. intelligence and security personnel to contain cartel activities on both sides of the border.
"I see a lot of continuity despite the implicit and explicit criticism that was made," Alejandro Hope, security analyst and former Mexican intelligence official, told the Associated Press.