By Sandra Hernandez
7:26 PM PST, November 26, 2012
President Obama will meet with Mexico’s incoming president, Enrique Peña Nieto, on Tuesday in what is largely billed as a meet-and-greet visit. No doubt the two leaders will vow to work together on bilateral issues, including trade, immigration and border security.
But the meeting may prove to be more than just a photo opportunity thanks to Peña Nieto’s recent announcement that he plans to restructure the government and move control of the federal police from the Public Security Ministry to the Interior Ministry.
As my colleague Tracy Wilkinson reported, Peña Nieto’s party, known as the Institutional Revolutionary Party, recently introduced legislation in Mexico’s Congress to shift control of the police from the Public Security Ministry to the Interior Ministry, and downsize the agency.
The proposal offers an important preview of a Peña Nieto administration. After all, the PRI leader has provided few details about how exactly he plans to fulfill some of his campaign promises, including a pledge to cut Mexico’s homicide rate in half, increasing the size of the federal police by at least 35,000 officers, and implementing judicial reforms that have been stalled since 2008.
Peña Nieto has also said that while he hopes to continue with some of President Felipe Calderon's efforts to combat the drug cartels and transnational gangs, he also intends to change that strategy. But just what those changes will entail remains to be seen.
Surely, any effort to change the role of the federal police would signal a significant shift away from Calderon's policy. The outgoing president has relied on the federal forces as part of his war on the drug cartels. And the U.S. has supported that approach, helping vet and train thousands of officers as part of the Merida Initiative -- a nearly $2-billion security agreement between the two countries.
Let's hope that Peña Nieto proves to be just as bold when it comes to implementing the judicial reforms that have been on hold for nearly four years. Those much needed changes include moving Mexico's justice system from an inquisitorial model -- in which prosecutors build paper files that are presented to judges -- to an adversarial judicial model that relies on oral arguments. And Peña should submit a proposal to Congress to reform the federal criminal penal code.
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