Mexico's New Leader Vows New Drug War Plan

By McCarton Ackerman 07/05/12

President-elect Pena Nieto has a more locally-focused strategy to tackle the cartels.

President-elect Nieto in Mexico City on July 2.
Photo via

Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto, has vowed to take a different approach to tackling his country's drug war. Although his victory in last Sunday's election is still being contested, Pena Nieto has announced that while he still plans to continue his predecessor Felipe Calderon's approach of targeting drug cartels, he will move away from flashy drug busts and instead start from the bottom by taking on small gangs in order to protect ordinary citizens. Calderon's approach received criticism for fracturing control of territory and smuggling routes, which led to the spawning of several smaller gangs throughout the country. "We will wage an effective fight against the capos, against the heads of the cartels, but clearly also with a rethinking that will allow a lowering of violence," says 45-year-old Pena Nieto, who heads a first return to power for Mexico's once-unshakable Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) since 2000. "There will be no truce, no pact with organized crime." He also announced plans to build a 40,000-member paramilitary police force that would be dispatched to those areas most gripped by organized crime—and to increase security spending and double the number of federal police to 35,000 officers. But Pena Nieto was often vague about his anti-crime plans during his election campaign—leading to speculation in some quarters that he either has little idea of how to proceed, or that he'll be willing look the other way if cartels smuggle drugs northward without creating violence in Mexico. Time will tell.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.