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Mexican President Convinced Drug War Violence Has Been 'Contained'

President Enrique Peña Nieto pointed to an overall improvement in murder and robbery rates, while at the same time acknowledging problems have grown in certain regions of the country.

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President Enrique Peña Nieto Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman

02/21/14

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Despite drug war violence showing no signs of slowing down in Mexico, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has remained unfailingly optimistic that the violence has been isolated and even contained. In a new interview with the Wall Street Journal, Peña Nieto praised the country’s army for their role in quelling the violence and cited a new local strategy approach to the drug war with bringing about the change.

“There has been a decline in the number of murders and robberies. We divided the country into five regions to create a localized strategy for each one and not a one-size-fits-all strategy for the whole country. This has led to greater cooperation with state authorities and real results,” he said. "There are regions and cities in the country that were seen to have terrible problems of violence that today have a different reality, like Ciudad Juárez and Monterrey. The problem is starting to become focalized and is not a nationwide problem.”

But Peña Nieto also acknowledged in the same breath that instances of kidnapping and extortion have increased in some states. “We had warned this could happen as a consequence of some drug gangs being dismantled, so that some of the members who aren't captured probably engaged in this kind of activity,” he said. “We're stepping up our anti-kidnap strategy and are setting up a new unit dedicated to this purpose.”

The president is also hoping to create a single criminal-justice system and implement oral trials for drug cartel members by 2016. Peña Nieto also has plans to eventually phase out the Army in preventing drug war violence and increase police forces so that states “have reliable civilian authorities.” The plans fall in line with his vows last year to shift away from the aggressive tactics of his predecessor Felipe Calderón. Under Calderón’s leadership, the drug war violence resulted in more than 63,000 deaths.

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