VIDEO: Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto speaks with Univision News
By JORDAN FABIAN
Channel: Latin American Affairs, Politics
Mexico’s leading presidential candidate wants to shift strategies in his nation’s fight against drug cartels, starting by phasing out the use of his country’s military against the criminal organizations.
Enrique Peña Nieto, a candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), says that he would take a different approach that the current president, Felipe Calderón of the opposing National Action Party (PAN), who has dispatched the nation’s military to combat criminal drug cartels.
“I believe that the presence of the military in this fight against the crime cannot be always and for all the time,” Peña Nieto said during an interview with Univision News in Washington, D.C. on Monday. “I think we need better regulation about the participation of the military and, gradually, I believe that the military forces need to go back to their quarters and … have civil institutions [fight] the crime organizations.”
Peña Nieto is considered an early front-runner in the country’s presidential race scheduled for July 2012 - four months before U.S. voters choose their next president. And cartel violence is considered a top concern of voters residing south of the border.
Calderón cannot seek reelection next year because of term limits, but some observers believe the election could serve as a referendum on his crackdown on cartels.
A Pew Research Center pollreleased in August showed that less than half of the Mexican public sees progress in the drug war, but an overwhelming 83 percent continues to support the use of the Mexican army to fight narco-traffickers.
The U.S. has played a role in aiding Mexican authorities combating drug-trafficking organizations, even allowing Mexican police to stage cross-border raids inside the U.S., according to the New York Times. Some of the violence has spilled over the border into the U.S.
Mexico has also allowed American intelligence and drug-enforcement agents to conduct operations from Mexican military bases, the paper reported.
Peña Nieto explained that the Mexican military is not well-suited to fight drug traffickers. But he said he would not be willing to go as far as negotiate with the groups in order to end the violence.
“That is not a way to arrange things. I think the law just needs to be [applied] and there is no reason just to negotiate the application of the law. That cannot be done by any government,” he said.
The PRI candidate appears to agree with Calderón in other areas, such as immigration. He said that he wants to work closely with the U.S. government to implement reform that allows easier migration between the two nations.
“If we establish certain goals in order to allow people from Mexico and from the United States to cross the border freely in order just to get a better chance of a job, that can help us to give to the whole region better conditions and the economic growth that is needed,” he said.