Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto entered office promising to introduce a new 40,000-member police force called the Gendarmeria. In April 2012, while still a candidate, Pena Nieto said that the force would “work directly with military personnel to provide public security.” However, Pena Nieto has radically scaled back plans for the military-style Gendarmeria, which has since been downgraded to a less ambitious 5,000-member unit that will be part of the Federal Police, Mexico’s existing national police force. Instead of working to build a new heavy-duty force, Mexico is now trying to recalibrate its existing security programs and improve security coordination between federal, state and local government.
The goal is to find policy solutions that help protect areas of vital economic interest and achieve local-level law and order in problematic states wracked by violent drug cartels, such as Michoacan, Guerrero and Tamaulipas. Even as a candidate, Pena Nieto acknowledged that “the Mexican state has an obligation to fight drug trafficking, but there’s another topic that’s even higher priority, and that’s violence.”
The Gendarmeria still fits into the security agenda, but it is no longer a central component. Relegated under the Federal Police with an initial command leadership of only 360 officers, it will be known as the rebranded 7th division of Mexico’s Federal Police, ready to help confront outbursts of criminal activity or provide assistance after natural disasters.