BOGOTA: The top security adviser for Mexico’s next president said on Friday that he is recommending the creation of elite units of police and troops who will target not just major drug traffickers but also lower-level cartel hitmen as a way of swiftly reducing violence.
The proposal by newly retired Colombian police director general Oscar Naranjo explained in an interview, offers a glimpse of how President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto might fulfill his promise to slash the number of murders and kidnappings by 50 percent during his six years in office.
Similar to the approach that Naranjo employed against Colombian traffickers, the proposal raises the question of whether the widely respected general can reproduce his success in a very different country.
The model worked in Colombia and Naranjo said it could also be effective in Mexico.
Such units, which Naranjo said could be comprised in Mexico of the Army, Navy and police, should pursue not just of “high-value targets” such as Sinaloa and Zeta cartel bosses, said Naranjo, who retired June 12 after five years atop his country’s 170,000-member police.
“It’s good to go after drug dealers in order to capture them. But it’s not good not to have elite groups going after killers in order to impose the law, those squads of hitmen,” he said.
“You also have to put a lot of importance on these groups of hitmen to control the violence.”
The idea has been discussed by Mexico’s security experts, and makes sense as a component of a broader strategy to reduce violence, said Eric Olson, associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“If you want to really stop the violence, don’t focus on the kingpins, focus on the killers, it kind of eliminates this middle range of actors,” he said.
Naranjo also proposed setting violence-reduction targets for Mexico.
“In the first 100 days (of Nieto’s government) the goal should be set for reducing violence. It could go badly. It could go well. But it should be put in play,” he said. “I think it’s possible to tell the Mexicans, ‘Look, in 100 days we want to cut the violence we have in half.’”