Pena Nieto's election marked the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ran Mexico for 71 years. Under Calderon, violence exploded and cartels splintered. Many Mexicans believed drug violence would start to wane with the return of the PRI, assuming it would negotiate to keep the peace — something party leaders have consistently denied.
Upon taking office Dec. 1, Pena Nieto announced that he would work to restore peace, saying the government would change its security strategy to reducing murders, kidnappings and extortion more than going after cartel leaders . He released a security plan that was not clearly different from Calderon's. Among the few specifics was a plan to establish a gendarmerie to patrol dangerous areas, a force that will take several years to build. Meanwhile he is keeping the military on the streets, just as Calderon did.
The Pena Nieto government also said that it will only talk about violence in terms of "hard data."
Eduardo Sánchez, the undersecretary for media in the Interior Ministry, told Mexico's official news agency last week that the federal government will no longer present detainees to the media or mention prisoners' aliases — be it "the Squirrel" or "El Brad Pitt" — a highly criticized practice under Calderon.
The idea, Sanchez said, is to avoid glorifying violence, which is already celebrated in some circles through music and clothing styles.
"We don't want the youth in this country to feel like crime is attractive or a good place in increase your social economic status," Sanchez told local reporters last week.
He said the government has arrested 854 people for drug-related crimes its first month in office, and said 69 criminals were killed in confrontations with the armed forces. But he would not say to which organized crime groups they belonged or the circumstances of their deaths or capture.
Carlos Reyes, spokesman for the congressional delegation of the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, was critical of the new approach.
"The actions of the government need to be transparent in terms of being precise about the level of the problem and how you're going to address it, not evade or disguise it," he said.
Edna Jaime, director of the policy analysis firm Mexico Evaluates, it's too early to criticize the new government's approach.
"The dynamic of violence is not going to change in a month or a month and half," she said, though she added that the government should have a strategy by now. The narrative will change "when it's accompanied by real change," she added.
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