McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador kicked off a three-day tour of his country’s northern border by announcing that he will assign a federal crime-gathering organization to “draw a line” to stop criminals from infiltrating local, state and federal authorities.
In a 75-minute news conference Friday morning in the border city of Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, Lopez Obrador said he was optimistic that his country has an aggressive and renewed plan for combating criminal organizations, reducing homicides and crimes committed against women, improving the economic prosperity of the lower-class, and reducing drug addictions, which fuel rampant crimes.
“Sí se puede,” he said. “We are taking measures.”
Among measures he announced is the re-purposing of the Center for National Intelligence, which, he said, will coordinate “24/7” with local, municipal, state and federal agencies on crime data and information nationwide.
Although this center has been in existence for years and coordinates with U.S. authorities on a regular basis, Lopez Obrador said this agency will now be the central point within his nation for information on ongoing criminal activity, and the disbursement of this information to local, state and federal officials. The center has previously focused on espionage and terrorist activities.
“It’s very important about the Center of Intelligence, as I said, because if we have a good system of intelligence — not espionage, that’s very different. We had a system of intelligence but it was being used to spy, especially adversaries or the opposition — now that intelligence is going to guarantee peace and tranquility. This is very important,” Lopez Obrador said in Spanish.
That intelligence is going to guarantee peace and tranquility. This is very important.”Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
The Mexican president’s three-day visit to northern border towns comes at a time when Juarez is experiencing one of the deadliest crime sprees in the border city’s history — almost 1,500 homicides and an uptick in the killing of women last year.
Lopez Obrador spoke at the Guarnición Militar de Ciudad Juárez Barrancos Azul, where he had a public safety meeting with Juarez officials. Afterward, he planned to meet with maquiladora officials and was holding an “open public assembly” this evening, he said.
Although he discussed the need for reducing criminal activity, especially on the border, all of the statistics he provided seemed to indicate a drop in robberies, kidnappings, car thefts, family violence, attacks on tourists, and drug selling. All of the statistics shown, however, were only through November.
Meeting with the LeBaron family
On Saturday, he will travel to the western Chihuahua town of Nuevo Casas Grandes. On Sunday, he is touring Agua Prieta in the state of Sonora, across from Douglas, Arizona. He plans to meet with representatives of the LeBaron family, whose nine American relatives — including three women and six children — were killed as they were heading north on a Mexican highway late last year in Sonora.
“We must work to maintain authority, to draw the line,” Lopez Obrador said about drug cartels that have infiltrated local governments and police organizations. “When that line is crossed we cannot go forward. They are the ones who rule, they are the ones who govern and what for? So we have to dig a little deeper. … We have to try and have that separation. A line: Authority on one side and crime on the other. It’s not the same. It cannot be mixed.”
We must work to maintain authority, to draw the line (with drug cartels) … When that line is crossed we cannot go forward. … We have to try and have that separation. A line: Authority on one side and crime on the other.”Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
He said Mexican authorities are working with the FBI, at the U.S. agency’s request to investigate the family’s deaths. “They wanted to help and we authorized it,” he said.
‘Fast and Furious’ program questioned
Lopez Obrador also questioned what the United States government is doing to stop the flow of weapons south across its border. Specifically, the “Fast and Furious” operation, in which U.S. federal agents allowed criminals to buy firearms with the intention of tracking them to criminal organizations.
“We’re talking about the loss of lives and what nobody is responsible? Or that the responsible are here on this side? Who authorized that over there? Who were the responsible parties? Aside from the investigation, we did independently from ours. Let’s not rush. It will be known. All the truth will be known,” he said.
Francisco Galvan, a representative from the Texas Tamaulipas Trade Office and an adviser to Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, in the neighboring border state, said Lopez Obrador’s trip to the northern border is welcome, as well as his announcement for more stepped-up crime-data coordination.
“Seems like the agency is going to be more present 24/7 to the daily activities happening close to the border, all the criminal activity,” Galvan told Border Report. “It’s always good to have the presence of a president on the border region to reaffirm that Mexico is participating on a constant basis to try to prevent more and more the organized crime along the border and the United States.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.