Friday, May 17, 2013

México: Army General Placed in Charge of State, Federal Security Forces in Michoacan

According to EFE, Active-duty Mexican Army Maj. Gen. Alberto Reyes Vaca was sworn in on Thursday (May 16) as public safety secretary in the western state of Michoacan, which is home to several powerful criminal organizations and a growing vigilante movement, both of whom jeopardize public safety.

The General will have command of both the state police and federal security forces stationed in Michoacan.

The state’s new public safety chief vowed to confront the challenges facing Michoacan and to ensure that all forces under his direction act within the law.

COMMENT: Uruapan, a city of a quarter million people in the western state of Michoacan, made headlines in 2006 when members of a drug cartel -- La Familia Michoacana -- hurled five decapitated heads of rival gang members onto a dance floor. The cartel has since fractured, but violence in the region has remained a grisly reality.

The violence comes as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto pushes a new strategy aimed at focusing more on dealing with social and economic issues that fuel the drug trade and less on combating cartels head-on, which traditionally has not been effective.

Uruapan is among the metropolitan areas in México tapped for the President's new program, which aims to prevent violence, school dropouts, addiction and domestic violence, and also to better detect problems in México's education system.

Without jobs and social programs, Peña Nieto told CNN last year, millions of Mexicans "have no other option than to dedicate themselves sometimes to criminal activity."

"The cartels have been able to recruit tens of thousands of killers in part because poor neighborhoods have been systematically abandoned over decades and lack sufficient schools, community centers and security -- in short they lack opportunity," the International Crisis Group said in a recent report on México's cartel violence.

It is believed that an active duty flag officer has been placed in charge of state and federal police in Michoacan so as to get ahead of the institutional corruption which prevails throughout civilian public safety agencies.

A program currently being employed in Michoacan and other states involves the creation of "trade-in centers," where citizens can trade in firearms and receive tablets, laptops or money in return.