Pubdate: Sat, 29 Nov 2008
Page: A08
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: William Booth, Washington Post Foreign Service
Bookmark: (Mexico)
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


Mexican President's Administration Concedes That Many Police Are Unqualified

MEXICO CITY -- President Felipe Calderon 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.

One hundred days after calling for a sweeping overhaul of security 
forces, including a reorganization of the federal police into a 
single agency, Calderon 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 Calderon, 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 Calderon 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.

Calderon touted the recent arrest of Noe Ramirez 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. 
Other top law enforcement officials have also been detained in recent 
weeks in "Operation Clean House," including Mexico's former liaison 
to Interpol, the international police organization.

Nonetheless, "we cannot celebrate any progress when the majority of 
Mexicans feel unsafe," said Fernando Gomez-Mont, the new interior secretary.

In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, 
Calderon 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.

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.

On Friday, Calderon's top law enforcement official, Genaro Garcia 
Luna, secretary of public safety, reported that in the past 100 days, 
kidnappings in Mexico were down 18 percent and that authorities had 
dismantled 53 gangs of kidnappers.

But according to the office of the federal attorney general, 
kidnappings are up 9 percent this year and average 65 a month 
nationwide. However, an independent research and polling group, the 
Citizens' Institute for Crime Studies, estimates that in reality 500 
people are kidnapped each month nationwide.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake