Saturday, December 20, 2014

Today's headlines: * Peña Nieto has a message for Mexico's governors: 'Do your job.' * Part of their job will soon be running all the local police departments. * U.S. agents apparently helped with the Iguala investigation. Is that a problem?

The major news Friday, according to most of the press, was a security address by President Peña Nieto. The gist of the speech, delivered to 31 state governors, plus security officials and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, assembled at the presidential residence of Los Pinos for a meeting of the National Public Security Council, was that the governors are going to  have to do a better job of keeping their states safe from drug gangs and other criminals. As if to show he really meant it, the president warned the governors that they could no longer count on the Federal Police or military to ride to the rescue when security breaks down in the states. The top headlines in Excelsior (“Peña to the states: do your part”) and in Milenio (“No more excuses, Peña demands of governors”) reflect that announcement. In issuing the warning, Peña Nieto acknowledged that there are “weaknesses” in local security forces, citing Iguala as obvious proof that certification is no guarantee of integrity or professionalism in a police body or individual officer.

EL Universal relegates the security meeting to third place in its front-page hierarchy, and in so doing focuses on a separate but related angle: “Conago commits itself to speeding up the Single Command.” Conago is the council of the nation’s governors, and Single Command is an awkward translation of the Mando Único, which will put all local police forces under the control of their states. This idea is one of Peña Nieto’s proposed measures in response to the Iguala crisis, and the story here is that the state leaders themselves, assembled Friday in Los Pinos, are promising to implement it. Why the shift? “We have more than 2,000 (municipal) police forces in this country,” the president said Friday. “That's 2,000 municipios in this country that don’t have the technical capacity for policing.” Stripped of the polite term "technical capacity," this means to most people that local police are corrupt, incompetent, dangerous and often neck deep in organized crime. Municipal officials oppose the change, given the loss of control it implies, as do others who wonder (reasonably) if state cops are any better. It is to be hoped that they can be, because with Peña Nieto withholding federal help, and municipal forces going under state control, it’s going to be up to the governors to right this ship.

La Jornada’s coverage of the security meeting is subsumed under the screaming headline: “The U.S. intervened in the Iguala investigation.” What this is all about is a recognition attributed to Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam that some FBI agents “came and helped, mostly in organizing the coroner’s inquest.” The U.S. had publicly offered to help out in the investigation and apparently the offer was taken up. Unless there’s more coming on this story, its front-page lead placement — and the loaded word "intervened" rather than "assisted" — seems meant to stir up the nationalist passions that go with any mention of the United States involving itself with Mexico (or, in equal measure, ignoring Mexico). At some point in any ongoing story of social conflict, the gringo card is played.

Reforma’s front page ignores the security speech and goes instead with “GDF celebrates hidden funds.” The story is the result of a recorded telephone conversation between a Federal District government (GDF) official and a ranking member of the city's legislative body (the ALDF) in which they’re heard rejoicing over the 1.8 billion pesos (some 130 million dollars) that was distributed to the 16 delegaciones and various city government agencies and departments over the year without restrictions. Such non-earmarked funds are budgeted every year, but not every year does a copy of a recorded chat about them fall into the hands of Reforma, a hawkish campaigner against government secrecy.

El Universal continues going after Iztapalapa delegado, or borough head, Jesús Valencia Guzmán, in its top front page head: “I live in Pedegral in a house worth 9.5 million pesos.” Yesterday we were informed that the Jeep Cherokee he crashed after a party earlier in the week was registered to an employee of a borough contractor. Now the hook is the worth of his house, which the intrepid investigative reporter uncovered when Valencia simply told her its worth in an interview. The value converts to about 650,000 dollars — a lot for the low-income, overpopulated delegación of Iztapalapa but not so much in the leafy, cobblestoned Pedegral de San Ángel area where the house  actually is. Another detail absent from the headline: It’s not his house, though he presumably keeps a toothbrush there. It belongs to his girlfriend.

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