all candidates pledge to end the current policy of using the Army to confront drug cartels
The Mexican election set for two weeks from Sunday will lead to a major change in the way that nation fights the War on Drugs, but American officials who are close to the candidates say they are expected to continue to cooperate with the U.S. on drug interdiction and border security, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The front runner, Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, says he plans a major change in the way the drug war is fought, including sending the Mexican Army back to the barracks and allowing newly trained Federal Judicial Police to assume the lead role.
"He wants to train as many federal police as much as possible, so they can start taking over," U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who is a friend of Pena Nieto, told 1200 WOAI news.
Perhaps the most disturbing to American officials is a vow by Pena Nieto that he will no longer concentrate on stopping drug shipments and will end the current practice of targeting drug gang leaders.
"We'll go after the top guys, he is saying," Cuellar said. "But first we're going to go after the ones who are causing the murders, causing the rapes, causing all the misery."
Cuellar said Pena Nieto and his advisers think that using the Army is making the problem of violence in northern Mexico worse, and the policy of targeting drug cartel leaders has simply led to additional violence, as underlings vie for the lucrative top positions after a gang leader is taken out.
An estimated 40,000 people have been murdered in northern Mexico since newly elected President Felipe Calderon announced his offensive against the drug gangs in 2006. There has been a spasm of violence just in the last several weeks, as several mass murders have been uncovered across the northern part of the country.
Cuellar downplays Pena Nieto's comment that he will no longer allow Mexico's War on Drugs to 'be subordinate to the strategies of other countries,' saying he is confident that, while as president, Pena Nieto would continue to cooperate with the U.S.
"He says he wants to continue working with the U.S., in fact, he talks about how the U.S. and Mexico can work closer together," he said.
The other two major candidates in the July First election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the socialist Party of the Democratic Revolution, and Josefina Vasquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party, have talked on the campaign trail about altering the strategy of the drug war. Lopez Obrador has talked openly of a strategy of 'hugs, not bullets,' in which he says economic development and better paying jobs for Mexico's young people is a more effective way to fight the drug gangs.
Causing problems for Pena Nieto's claims are a general feeling that his historically corrupt PRI would simply buy off the drug cartels to reduce the violence, something Cuellar says he has been assured won't happen. But an indictment unsealed last month accuses the former PRI governor of Tamaulipas State in northern Mexico of being in the pay of the Gulf Cartel throughout his term, and amassing a fortune in land, including property in San Antonio, which he bought with his drug gang bribes.