Mexico Institute In the News: Mexico gangster crackdown nails dozens, but still falls short

Dec 30, 2011

The Houston Chronicle, 12/30/11

So many gangsters, so little time.

Though President Felipe Calderon's five-year campaign has nailed dozens of crime bosses, many of Mexico's kingpins remain at large. Despite 50,000 dead and tens of thousands of arrests the resilient gangs seem as capable of havoc as ever.

Calderon leaves office in 11 months. The crackdown he couches as crucial to Mexico most certainly will be left unfinished. Most of the leading candidates to succeed him promise strategy changes, but their proposals remain vague.

"What worries me is that you don't have anybody getting to the heart of the matter," said analyst Alejandro Hope, until recently a senior official in Mexico's equivalent of the CIA. "What are we going to ask of the Americans? Is the intelligence interchange going to continue, an aggressive policy of extradition?"....

....Many Mexicans hope the next president will be able to negotiate a peaceful end to the violence. Polls suggest presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto will return the Institutional Revolutionary Party to power, a party that ruled Mexico most of the past century. Gangster violence was largely contained under the PRI's rule through deal making or more effective enforcement. But analysts believe Calderon's successor will find it difficult to put the demons back in their box.

"I don't see that being possible in a macro sense," said Eric Olson, of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. "If you start from the assumption that there are a lot of differences between these trafficking gangs, it might be difficult to sit down and negotiate with them."

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