Osorio Chong in the Senate yesterday. Osorio Chong in the Senate yesterday.

Security system is from ‘the last century’

After Mexico's worst month for homicides, interior secretary appears before senators

Reforming Mexico’s outdated security system is essential to address rising crime in the “very complex” situation that is confronting the country, Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said yesterday.

Appearing before the Senate, Osorio said that a system that provides a better base on which to build solid, trustworthy and more capable local police forces must replace “a model that comes from last century.”

The government has pushed a “Mando Único” or “Single Command” proposal that would make public security responsibility and accountability less fragmented and reduce the autonomy of municipal police.

Osorio also stressed that Mexico must rectify a situation in which 600 municipalities don’t have a police force, half of the existing forces have less than 20 members and 40% of officers earn less than 4,600 pesos per month (just under US $250).

In addition, many forces don’t have the equipment, training or working conditions they require to carry out their duties, he said.

Homicide numbers in October were the highest ever recorded, according to the National Public Security System. But when questioned about it, Osorio was evasive, instead pointing to the government’s record in the first half of its six-year term.

“Hopefully in some of the past meetings that we had you would have recognized the considerable reduction that was achieved in 2013, 2014 and 2015 . . . it was not [about] congratulating the interior secretary, it was to recognize our institutions,” he said.

He added that during Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency there had been ” splendid coordination between all federal institutions” and 108 of 122 criminals considered Mexico’s most dangerous had been detained.

If they hadn’t been arrested the security situation would be “truly dramatic,” he said, adding that insecurity is a challenge that knows no territorial or ideological borders and affects and endangers everyone equally.

The interior secretary faced intense questioning from opposition party senators on security-related issues during an appearance that lasted five and a half hours.

Among the issues he was probed on were rising femicide levels and the clash between teachers and police in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, which left seven people dead last year. A human rights report determined that police used excessive force in the confrontation.

Osorio remained defiant under scrutiny, defending the government’s security record and taking umbrage at the implication that the nation’s flagship security forces — the military and the Federal Police — have acted improperly.

“We have an elite and professional Federal Police [force] that is internationally recognized . . .” he told senators.

He also defended an Internal Security Law bill that if approved will give more power to the armed forces to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.

“The Internal Security Law is not to protect the military or . . . to militarize the country, it’s to protect citizens . . . it’s a law that says when and under which conditions the army should go out [into the streets].”

Members of a lower house committee will vote on the bill next week and if supported by a majority it will subsequently be referred to the entire house for consideration.

The governing Institutional Revolutionary Party’s parliamentary leader, César Camacho, supported Osorio, saying that while the law won’t be a panacea for the insecurity the country is facing, it needs to be passed urgently to give greater certainty to both the military and the civilian population.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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