Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mexico debates how to stem police corruption; America's hour for not comprehending

The MexFiles clues us in to a public policy debate in Mexico over the structure of police and how best to fight corruption:
There is a legislative battle right now between PAN and the Calderon Administration on one side, and PRI, PRD and the legislative left on the other over police reforms. The Calderonistas are pushing for a single national police force under the control of the Federal Executive and the opposition parties, for varying reasons, agrees that better police coordination is needed, but rejects a consolidated police.

In this case, it’s the leftist parties that are fighting the consolidation, and — if you read the rightist, or pro-PAN publications — is to maintain local government control (read “patronage”) where opposition parties have the upper hand. For the lefties, it’s also a matter of civil liberties. Police answerable only to the Federal Executive could be used to quash legitimate dissent. Of course, local coppers are used to put down dissenting movements now… but when they do, they risk their own electorial advantage if the movement is indeed popular with the locals, and — if they are unable to control the movement — then they need to compromise with the dissenters or open themselves to federal control (and risk removal from office for “inability to govern”). I tend to prefer a few pockets of anarchy and the risk of some violence to a police-state, but that’s a personal thing.

A more conservative argument against federalizing the police is also a basic capitalist one. If I were in the gangster biz, I’d rather only have to bribe one or two key officials, than handle the bribes for local police chiefs, state police inspector generals, federal police commanders — any one of whom might, in a fit of honest pique, undo my dirty work. A unitary police force would make bribery and corruption a much simpler task.

For the honest coppers, and those of us who support them, the less unified the police, the better. If there are corrupt forces, it’s easier to replace, say, the transitos of Fulanatitlan, than to pick out the bad apples buried omewhere in a huge police apparatus “controlling” a country of 120,000,000

See the rest of the post which includes excerpts from a Mexico City newspaper columnist who looks on in wonder at the new "Merida Initiative" money and understandably laments that, "The Americans seem to think, just about every time, that this time is going to be different."

That line not only sums up the last 40 years (at least) of US drug policy toward Mexico, but also reminds me of a these verses from one of my favorite Mexican painter/poets, Alfredo CastaƱeda, published in his 2005 Book of Hours:
Hour For Not Comprehending

And like the first time, I ran as fast as I could.
And like the first time, I fell at the base of the tree.
And like the first time, I got up uttering horrible blasphemies.
And like the first time, I wept until the sun went down, taking
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwith it all that bitterness
And like the first time, too, I thought:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxTomorrow I will make it at last.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxTomorrow will be my day
Surely as it regards the drug war and Mexico, this is America's "Hour For Not Comprehending."

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