But Will They Get it Right?May 12th, 2009 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics
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Every few years, it seems, Mexico flips a new federal law enforcement agency; each one supposedly impermeable to corruption and politicking, some a little scary, others simply worthless. The latest federal public security agency doesn’t look very worthless, we’ll have to see about the other.
The news was lost somewhere in the swine flu freak-out, there’s nothing like a bit of Armageddon to put things in perspective, I guess. But the lower house of Congress voted 303 to 2 in late April to create a brand-new federal law enforcement agency with sweeping powers that far exceed those of the current federales, the Agencia Federal de Investigaciones and the Policía Federal Preventiva. AFI, now under the Attorney General’s Office and the PFP, under the Public Security Ministry, would either be disbanded or melded into one super-agency under the Law of the Federal Police. A week later, the Senate approved the law 85 to 1.
The new federal law enforcement agency would have some typical police powers, monitoring cellphones, legal access to cellular companies’ records on call transmissions and the use of undercover agents. And the idea’s been discussed over the past few years, particularly since Calderón took office.
But also typical is what you don’t see in the system, an oversight committee, and until some sort of inspector general or review board is created, there won’t be any accountability in the new super-agency. And that story, you can take back fifty years to the rise of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad Nacional. If I recall, even Amado Carrillo carried credentials for DFSN. And if I also recall, the men who killed DEA agent Enrique Camarena flashed DFSN badges before leaving Guadalajara.
Then there was SIEDO, that supposedly invulnerable law enforcement agency that was supposed to reside in intellectual isolation, away from the capacities of the cartels to corrupt and deteriorate the newest agency.
Formed in 2003, SIEDO was supposed to be the PAN-ista’s answer to the splintered factions of the cartels. Instead of focusing on the Arellanos or the Carrillos or Cardenas on the Gulf Coast, there was supposed to be a broad-based approach that would decimate all the cartels.
The agency started seven years ago with 117 agents, all undergoing financial audits, psychological screening and lie detectors. Backgrounded down to the neighbor and blood, the entire time, American Feds looking over their shoulders.
Within six years, SIEDO became an embarrassment on a nearly national level, its agents compromised in the crudest way, through monthly cash drops. There was a tendency to cut SIEDO some slack after Santiago Vasconcelos died in that plane crash last year. I understand that; what I don’t understand is how the U.S. was able to indemnify the agency for years, simply based off the fact that many State Department employees liked Vasconcelos.
And now, nearly a year later, here we go again.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the U.S.’s response will be to a new agency. Will the Obama Administration tactfully avoid questions of corruption and lack of oversight the way every president has going back to presidents Nixon and Echeverria? Will the new super-agency be invited to take training courses in the U.S. the way SIEDO was – and the paramilitaries that later became the Zetas? The Bush Administration couldn’t get enough of Fox’s law enforcement strategies, going so far as to funding Mexico’s eavesdropping capabilities in 2007.
The Obama Administration, with its platitudes about sharing responsibility, is going to have a tough time backing that talk if this new agency turns out to be as corrupt and inept as SIEDO ever was.