Mexico: Calderon targets Chiapas

Mexico’s new (and still-contested) President Felipe Calderon, touring Chiapas on Dec. 14, announced new steps to beef up border control and fight organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Accompanied by Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna and Chiapas Gov. Juan Sabines, Calderon spoke before a gathering in the town of Tuxtla Chico on the Guatemalan border. “Along with overcoming poverty and creating jobs, I’m convinced that the government has the obligation and the ability to achieve a secure border while guaranteeing human rights for everybody,” said Calderon. “I see no contradiction in that.” Specific measures will include the creation of a new border security force consisting of state and federal enforcement officers, and a guest worker program that will grant temporary visas to Guatemalan agricultural workers. Calderon also indicated that the federal government will crack down on Central Americans living illegally in Chiapas. “Beginning next month, a program will be put into operation that will review the migratory status of those who are already in the zone,” he said. (El Universal, Dec. 15)

Citing sources in the office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR), the national daily El Universal said the Chiapas regions targeted in the new security plan would be Soconusco, along the Pacific coast, and la Selva, the inland rainforest basin along the Guatemalan border. These were identified as “focos rojos” (red zones), considered key transfer points for the Central American criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha, which was said to have 5,000 adherents in Mexico, 90% in Chiapas. Citing reports from the federal Center of Information and National Security (CISEN), the account said some 50 Mara Salvatrucha members are entering Mexico every day, and are being recruited as sicarios (hired assassins) by the northern drug cartels. (El Universal, Dec. 15)

Chiapas prosecutor Mariano Herran Salvatti said the state was also launching its own force, to be dubbed the State Border Police (Policia Estatal Fronteriza), which will incorporate 750 officers from the State Investigation Agency (AEI), the Public Security Police and local police from 18 municipalities along the Guatemalan border. (Radio Formula, Dec. 14)

On Dec. 15, Calderon named Ardelio Vargas, previously chief of staff at the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), as commissioner of both that force and the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI). Calderon’s office said in a statement that Vargas’ appointment “will allow for the adding together of the powers, abilities and technical capacities” of both agencies.

Calderon also announced that day that Luis H. Alvarez, previously President Vicente Fox’s pointman for the long-stalled peace dialogue with the Zapatista rebels, will lead the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples. Unlike the previous head—Xochitl Galvez, who resigned Dec. 6 after complaining about agency budget cuts—Alvarez is not one of Mexico’s estimated 12.5 million indigenous people.

Despite maintaining a truce, the Zapatistas still reject the federal government’s authority, and never entered into dialogue with the Fox administration. (AP, Dec. 15) The Chiapas Selva, targeted by Calderon’s new security plan, is their principal stronghold.

All sources archived at Chiapas95

See our last posts on Mexico, Chiapas, the Zapatistas, the narco crisis and the Calderon administration.