Calderon's Crime Effort Fails to Advance
Mexican Leader’s Crime Effort Fails to Advance
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
Published: December 17, 2010
MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderón’s effort to reorganize local police forces and clamp down on money laundering in the fight against organized crime has suffered a setback with the failure of the Mexican Congress to move forward on the initiatives.
Mr. Calderón had promoted these plans as pivotal to undermining drug trafficking organizations whose battles among themselves and with the authorities have left more than 30,000 people dead in the past four years, Mexico’s attorney general reported this week.
But Congress adjourned Wednesday without voting on any of the significant changes that Mr. Calderón had proposed. A coalition of 33 civic and business organizations expressed their frustration on Thursday in a full-page newspaper advertisement that urged Mr. Calderón, Congress and other governmental bodies to tackle the big changes they think are needed to improve safety.
The organizations said the rising violence this year made the overhaul more urgent than ever. On Friday, local news organizations reported that more than 140 inmates had escaped from a prison near the Texas border and that an antiviolence advocate was gunned down in a northern border state.
“We Mexicans see, with great frustration, that this year the authorities were not able, once again, to put the welfare of the country and safety of families above their political interests,” the advertisement in the newspaper Reforma said.
Mr. Calderón had put much stock in his plan to clean up local police forces, which are seen as particularly close to organized crime groups, by bringing them under the control of state governors. But lawmakers, including some in Mr. Calderón’s party, have questioned whether that would give too much control to governors, some of whom have also been found to have connections with drug gangs.
Mr. Calderón had also pressed for revisions to banking laws that would restrict cash transactions as a way to stem the billions of dollars laundered by criminal groups. The proposal has been stuck in committees.
Some lawmakers argued that such big changes deserved careful study and debate.
“An arduous analysis is necessary,” said Ardelio Vargas Fosado, an opposition lawmaker who is chairman of the national defense committee in the lower chamber.
José Luis Ovando, a legislator from Mr. Calderón’s party and chairman of the justice committee in the lower house, said, “We don’t want to rubber-stamp nor hurry along the analyses that should be done.”
Other lawmakers said they were wary of anything that could be perceived as giving Mr. Calderón more power.
The president’s right-leaning National Action Party controls the Senate, but the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had governed for decades, has a plurality in the lower chamber and is anxious to take back the presidency in 2012 elections.
“In effect, Calderón entered his lame-duck phase from July 2009 when he lost Congress,” Fernando Dworak, a political consultant here, said, referring to legislative elections that gave the Institutional Revolutionary Party its plurality in the lower chamber.
Mr. Calderón’s office said he would continue to fight for the changes, but that may prove difficult. “Sometimes the will is there, but the differences are so big they block the ability to get a parliamentary majority,” Senator Carlos Navarrete of the Democratic Revolutionary Party said Thursday at a news conference.
Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting.