Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto has presented a ten-point-plan aimed at containing organized crime. The plan sounds fine, but his words must still be turned into deeds, argues Claudia Herrera-Pahl.
Enrique Peña Nieto's ten-point-plan simultaneously evokes amazement and disbelief. It arouses amazement because, despite being simple and concise, it could put an end to national anger in Mexico, raised by the recent surge of violence. The proviso is that the plan comes to life, that those in charge can make it reality. It also generates disbelief, because the degree of clout envisaged by the plan provokes the question whether Mexico - already called a failed state by some - can come up with the energy and will to implement it.
Not all of the ideas are new - many of the measures now proposed by the president were on the table before. But they were never implemented. However, never before has the violence in Mexico attracted the current level of international attention.
Fundamental reform of the federal state
The constitutional reform which Peña Nieto will submit to congress on December 1 already contains some groundbreaking changes for the federal state: the president intends to hand over control of security matters to the federal government in all those municipalities where administrations are known to have collaborated with organized crime. This is a concrete and courageous step, although it remains unclear how municipal police forces are to be replaced by a more professional and more efficient state police and what exactly will happen to the former local police forces. After all, these armed units could easily turn into a future threat.
Other proposals will be easier to implement, such as documentation of cases of torture, abductions and executions, establishing a national system for tracking down disappeared persons as well as a nationwide database containing genetic information on those reported missing. These measures being very simple and their necessity being that obvious, it seems incredible that they were not implemented long ago in a country with more than 22,000 cases of missing persons. In addition, the envisaged information site about suppliers and contractors at federal level could be a handy tool in the fight against corruption. Provided that it is actually implemented, this will lead to more transparency.
The highest expectations, though, are linked to Peña Nietos announcement of setting up three special economic zones in the poverty-stricken south of the country. They encompass areas which are known for their particularly high crime rates, such as Guerrero (where the 43 missing students were abducted), Chiapas and Oaxáca. Poverty, marginalization and inequality are fertile grounds for drug trafficking. In this respect, this part of the ten-point-plan is definitely the most sustainable. In the event of success, this development strategy should be applied to other areas.
All down to the president
If Congress approves the ten-point-plan on Monday, this will be only a beginning: liberating Mexico from the vicious circle of corruption and violence is a cumbersome and complicated process. However, atrocities like the Iguala incident must no longer remain without consequences.
Through submitting his plan, President Peña Nieto has made a personal pledge of becoming the vanguard in the fight for the rule of law and of relieving Mexico of crime, violence, corruption and impunity. It is up to him to live up to that pledge. Throwing light on allegations of conflicts of interest involving himself and his wife would definitely be a good start. In any case, both the Mexican civil society as well as the national and international general public have to see to it that Peña Nieto's words are turned into deeds.