Published On: Wed, Aug 27th, 2014

New Police Force in Mexico: The Gendarmerie

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The new National Gendarmerie, a 5,000-officer branch of the Federal Police, officially began operations on Friday, August 22nd following its inauguration by President Peña Nieto.

The “modern, professional and highly specialized” force, said the president, will “contribute to containing and breaking up organized crime groups that undermine economic activity wherever required.”

Reports are now surfacing that highlight the extent to which organized crime is having a major effect on the economy, from the mining and agricultural sectors through fishing and tourism. Extortion, kidnapping and thefts by drug gangs, most notably in states such as Michoacán and Tamaulipas, are taking their toll.

In the northern state of Tamaulipas, the cartel known as Los Zetas has been forcing fishermen to sell them their catch at a large discount. The gang turns around and sells the fish at market prices. Meanwhile, also in Tamaulipas, farmers have required military and police protection to harvest their crops.

Banana growers in Tabasco have also been targeted by cartels. At harvest time, extortion and kidnapping have risen, according to National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido.

The same has happened to the lime crop in Michoacán, he said. “The planters, pickers, packing houses and distributors all had to pay a cut to the criminals for the right to operate or ship .”

Peña Nieto said the Gendarmerie’s performance will be measured in terms of concrete results in the reduction of crime, reopening of businesses and the free movement of people and products.

The force, he explained, has three attributes.

One is a structure that is both police and military oriented, because its members have learned the best practices in confronting and detaining criminals. The second is a proximity to Mexican citizens, and having the knowledge and ability to link effectively with groups and sectors of the population that require its support.

Members are trained to protect and serve citizens directly with patrols on foot or on horseback in urban and rural, border and tourist zones.

Peña Nieto at the inauguration ceremony

President Enrique Peña Nieto at the inauguration ceremony

The objective“, said Peña Nieto, “is to become a police force that is close to the people, sensitive, supportive and absolutely respectful of human rights.”

The Gendarmerie’s third characteristic is its ability to move quickly to wherever it is needed, he continued. The force has fixed, semi-fixed and mobile quarters for rapid and opportune deployment.

It also has specifically trained groups to quickly carry out special operations.

The project has its doubters, among them Miguel Moguel, a researcher at the Fundar think tank. “It is naive to think that just by creating a new force with people who haven’t been in the police before . . . things are going to change,” he said.

We have been creating new police forces for decades— armored police, ‘incorruptible, super-trained police, but with disappointing results everytime“.

Here are some facts about the new force:

• Each of the 5,000 members has received 400 hours of training, the equivalent of a university semester.

• None has experience in military or security work, apart from 326 who come from other Federal Police divisions.

• The average age of members is 26 and more than 80% have secondary or higher education. Among the officers, 3% have done post-graduate study, and 73% have a degree.

• Women number 13% of the force, and 17% of the officers.

• They are equipped with 7.62 and .223 mm assault weapons and 9-mm handguns such as Glocks and Magnums.

• The force has 904 vehicles, including Jeep Patriots, Wranglers, Dodge Chargers, Nissan Titan pickup trucks, troop transport trucks and 100 horses for rural areas operations.

• There were 130,000 applicants, and their sense of duty was the prevailing criterion in the selection process, as well as being prepared to move around and remain for long periods away from their homes.


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