Public safety is Mexico’s number one priority. The most recent figures from the National Commission of Human Rights indicate 46,015 people have been murdered in the past six years, another 24,091 are missing or disappeared, 15,921 corpses remain unidentified, and another 1,421 bodies have been found buried in clandestine graves.
This is the tremendous challenge confronting Mexico’s next president, Enrique Pena Nieto. One of his plans is to push a reform of the Organic Law of Federal Public Administration in Congress, so the Secretariat of Public Safety no longer a free-standing entity but would be placed under the Department of the Interior.
The Office of Public Safety and the federal Police were founded during the last PRI government. Former President Fox gave a free hand to the department; during the Calderon administration, the Secretariat was given significant funding under the directorship of Genaro Garcia Luna.
The disappointing management of the department under Calderon and Garcia Luna is the rationale given by the incoming government for ending its autonomy and assuring that its role in ensuring public safety will improve.
Maybe the most effective way to improve the outcomes would have been to name competent administrators to head up the Secretariat and the Police, as well as to increase transparency and insist on balancing the books.
We are concerned that instead of making these types of changes, the approach is to take away the department’s freedom and put it under the jurisdiction of entirely political entity, a move which brings with it the danger of politicizing investigations.
This isn’t President-elect Pena Nieto’s only plan for government reorganization. The House ended up blocking another proposal to take away the independence of other government bodies, in this case the National Institute of Women and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, placing them both under the Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry of Public Function is also a candidate to be eliminated with the promise that it will be replaced in the future by a National Anti-Corruption Commission.
This entire reorganization certainly gives the impression of return to power for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which, with each twist, consolidates more control in Los Pinos.