5 solutions for Mexico’s drug violence and security challenges

Coat of arms of Mexico. Español: Escudo Nacion...

Coat of arms of Mexico. Español: Escudo Nacional de México. Français : Armoiries du Mexique. 日本語: メキシコの国章。 Română: Stema Mexicului. Русский: Герб Мексики. Svenska: Mexikos statsvapen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once every 12 years there is a unique opportunity to reinforce the bonds between Mexico and the United States, when our presidential election cycles coincide. For Mexico, the July 1 elections will be a crucial moment that will set the tone for our future and define the US-Mexico relationship for generations to come.

Undoubtedly, one of the main concerns that has caused social unrest today is that of security. At this time, violence has made an impact in Mexico and threatens to escalate and surpass the US border. This challenge transcends my country and could have far-reaching consequences for Central and North American security. Unless we act now to solve these common issues, we are placing the future competitiveness and prosperity of the entire region at risk, and a good way to start is by focusing on Mexico’s domestic situation.

True progress requires a real strategy based on partnerships that recognize the failed efforts of the broken system we live in, and present bold initiatives that can guide our country’s security efforts. I believe there are five main points of action that we must follow in order to move forward on Mexico’s security challenges.

By Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexican presidential candidate
posted June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm EDT

1.Eliminate the root cause of criminality

A woman is comforted while walking outside a drug rehabilitation center in the outskirts of Torreon, Mexico June 3 where armed gunmen left 11 people dead and at least 8 wounded. Mexico’s drug war has claimed more than 55,000 lives in less than six years. Leading Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto says Mexico’s security challenges threaten an entire region.

We must address our country’s unacceptable poverty and inequality rates. This means leveling the playing field by introducing universal social security, investing heavily in all levels of education, and reactivating economic growth by implementing a set of structural reforms. Acting aggressively will allow our youth to aspire for better-paid jobs and find alternatives to criminality.

In the last decade we have seen dismal economic growth of less than 2 percent per year on average. This is the worst record for Mexico in 70 years, particularly shocking when compared to double-digit growth in other developing countries. We need to quickly move onto a path of sustained growth that will increase investor confidence and provide stability for an eager workforce.

2.Reform the judicial process

We have to fight impunity and corruption by expediting the judicial process. It is imperative to give individuals and companies confidence in our legal system, which is now slow, unorganized, and unable to deliver justice impartially.

This can be accomplished through a more professional investigative service that increases the state’s ability to mete out justice, and by accelerating the switch to a system based on oral trials in order to have an efficient and transparent judiciary.

3.Professionalize our police forces

We must professionalize our police forces. We require well trained and equipped police, capable of investigating proficiently and using information and intelligence to perform surgical strikes against the organized mafias, tackling their structures from the top down.

It is very telling that over the past 12 years, the corruption perception index in Mexico has worsened from 3.3 to 3 according to Transparency International. In order to fight corruption, we need to unify the police forces from the municipalities and regional state governments, increase the use of intelligence, and create an inter-agency coordination plan that will guarantee the concerted efforts among various security organizations.

4.National security, not diplomatic discourse

I believe that we can no longer tackle issues of national security merely through diplomatic advances. We have been using foreign affairs ministries to address security issues, but this practice is outdated. It’s time to assign the handling of regional security to national organizations and expert institutions.

This fundamental shift will set a defining direction, as the days of diplomatic negotiations have been overrun by the serious nature of the security challenges confronting us. We need to bring about more efficient cooperation in terms of intelligence sharing and joint information gathering, particularly among the main drug-producing and drug-consuming nations in the region.

5.Joint border partnership with US and Canada

In an effort to strengthen the ties with our regional allies, we need to launch a more comprehensive partnership between Canada, the US, and Mexico that goes beyond security. It is time for a renewed push for more integration on transportation, education, and infrastructure. This is no longer a choice; it is our responsibility.

Developing a joint border-management agency working under harmonized customs rules will help promote trade and commerce. By eliminating redundant practices, we will facilitate economic growth while at the same time increasing each other’s security by having more control over our common borders. The time for this kind of thinking has come if we want to compete with other regional economic blocs.

By increasing productivity and becoming more competitive, we will be able to offer better opportunities and improve the standard of living for all Mexicans. This is the Mexico I aspire for: a safe country that spurs creativity and innovation, and attracts investment.

And while Mexico will do its part to reduce illegal immigration by creating greater economic opportunities and improving its safety record at home, the US will add greatly to our renewed relationship by addressing comprehensive immigration reform. In this regard, there is a full agenda for cooperation that can be seen under a new light.

A great opportunity lies before our two nations. Let’s seize it and rebuild our historic partnership on the basis of shared responsibility and mutual respect.

Enrique Peña Nieto is the leading candidate for the presidency of Mexico.

© 2012 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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