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Higher police numbers evident in Los Cabos

New security strategy evident in tourist destinations

The Federal Police have increased their presence in the resort cities of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, where they are carrying out patrols and investigative work.

The bolstered security is part of a federal response to rising levels of violence in tourist destinations.

National Security Commissioner Renato Sales announced Tuesday that 5,000 additional officers would be sent to “key cities” including Los Cabos and La Paz, where a lengthy shootout between police and alleged criminals occurred Monday.

Cancún, Manzanillo and Colima are also among the cities that will receive more Federal Police officers, Sales told the broadcaster Televisa.

In Los Cabos, the beefed-up presence has been evident in the hotel zones of both San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas as well as other neighborhoods that are considered susceptible to violence.

Baja California Sur recorded the second-highest homicide rate in Mexico last year, with 69 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and the tourist-oriented municipality of Los Cabos was plagued by a series of violent incidents and grisly discoveries.

They included the murder of three people on a beach in August while in November, 35 homicides occurred in one particularly bloody week in the state. More than half of the murders occurred in Los Cabos.

A mass grave containing 14 bodies was discovered in June while in December, six bodies were found hanging from bridges in Los Cabos and La Paz.

Several other incidents involving presumed criminal gangs resulted in scores of deaths in the municipality last year and violence continued in the first half of last month before easing in the last two weeks.

Los Cabos had been included in a U.S. Department of State travel advisory but it eased the warning in its updated advice issued last month.

In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Federal Police commissioner Manelich Castilla Craviotto made it clear that the objective of the augmented police deployment is to bring all areas affected by violence under control and capture all criminals regardless of which criminal group they belong to.

“We are color-blind when it comes to looking at criminal groups . . .” he said.

The commissioner rejected the suggestion that the operation was a hunt for alleged criminals, describing it instead as a security strategy with a different approach.

“I would call it a different approach to combat impunity. As Federal Police, we and the federal attorney general’s office don’t go out to hunt but to execute arrest warrants and to get information that can be used so that there is no impunity,” Castilla said.

He added that authorities and security forces were seeking to move from an approach that “combated criminal structures and focused in many cases on people to one that fully establishes [security] conditions in the places where these people operate.”

“It’s not a semantic or rhetorical change, it’s an action . . .  that complies with what the law establishes so that order and justice prevail . . .” Castilla explained.

The commissioner said the police have analyzed the risks entailed in the new operation including the potential reaction of organized crime groups.

“Nothing is being improvised, everything is measured . . .” he asserted.

Asked whether this operation was the most important significant security strategy since the army was deployed during the early days of Felipe Calderón’s presidency, Castilla was circumspect.

“I don’t want to say that it’s the most important . . . it’s the current one . . .” he said.

The commissioner explained that the Federal Police have also been involved in significant security operations in Michoacán and Chihuahua as well as other parts of the country.

He added that the participation of all sectors of society, including the business and academic community, is needed to combat violence and restore law and order to the streets.

The business community in Los Cabos has already heeded that advice, pledging 140 million pesos towards the construction of new military barracks in the municipality.

Source: El Universal (sp), Associated Press (en)

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