It’s amazing how little attention this is getting:
President Felipe Calderón and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderón declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.
Calderón touted the recent arrest of Noé Ramírez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico’s attorney general’s office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations. Other top law enforcement officials have also been detained in recent weeks in “Operation Clean House,” including Mexico’s former liaison to Interpol, the international police organization.
There is a full-scale war going on just across the Mexican border, and the cartel leaders still have the resources to buy people at the highest levels of the Mexican Government. All Calderón can do is boast about something that is really just evidence of how much the deck is stacked against him.
In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, Calderón reported Thursday that half of the 56,000 police officers evaluated in a federal review failed to reach minimum standards. The examinations included drug and lie detector tests, psychological profiling and reviews of personal wealth.
In the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, almost 90 percent of the officers received failing grades. It is not known how many will be fired or retrained. There are more than 375,000 police officers in Mexico.
The revelation that so many rank-and-file police officers fail to pass scrutiny is likely to come as no surprise to most Mexicans, who harbor deep distrust of law enforcement officers. A poll released Friday by a Mexican research group found that 60 percent of Mexicans do not feel safe and that the great majority do not report crimes because they distrust the police.
Due to American demand for illegal drugs, Mexico is now a country where controlling drug markets gives one nearly untouchable power over large areas. It’s simply not possible to arrest or shoot our way out of this situation. And the only solutions to this problem involve doing things that nearly all American politicians consider to be politically impossible. Throw in a worsening economy and higher unemployment driving up demand for drugs and we just get sucked further into the black hole.