Candidates in Mexico Signal a New Tack in the Drug War

The top three contenders for Mexico’s presidency have all promised a major shift in the country’s drug war strategy, placing a higher priority on reducing the violence in Mexico than on using arrests and seizures to block the flow of drugs to the United States.

The candidates, while vowing to continue to fight drug trafficking, say they intend to eventually withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight. They are concerned that it has proved unfit for police work and has contributed to the high death toll, which has exceeded 50,000 since the departing president, Felipe Calderón, made the military a cornerstone of his battle against drug traffickers more than five years ago.

The front-runner, Enrique Peña Nieto, does not emphasize stopping drug shipments or capturing drug kingpins as he enters the final weeks of campaigning for the July 1 election. Lately he has suggested that while Mexico should continue to work with the United States government against organized crime, it should not “subordinate to the strategies of other countries.”

“The task of the state, what should be its priority from my point of view, and what I have called for in this campaign, is to reduce the levels of violence,” he said in an interview.

United States officials have been careful not to publicly weigh in on the race or the prospect of a changed strategy, for fear of being accused of meddling. One senior Obama administration official said on Friday that Mr. Peña Nieto’s demand that the United States respect Mexican priorities “is a sound bite he is using for obvious political purposes.” In private meetings, the official said, “what we basically get is that he fully appreciates and understands that if/when he wins, he is going to keep working with us.”

– Read the entire article at The New York Times.

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