Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced the creation of a national police force to crack down on crime and battle the country’s powerful drug cartels.
The force — a gendarmerie based on the model of Spain’s Guardia Civil — would be 10,000 strong. Currently Mexico has a patchwork of city and state police, along with some national police.
“Mexicans want peace,” said the new president, addressing a gathering of cabinet members, the country’s state governors, top lawmakers and judges, as well as human rights observers.
The priority, he said, is to decrease the number of “homicides, kidnappings and incidents of extortion.”
The president’s six-point strategy includes an overhaul of the security forces that would see the country divided into five operational regions.
Pena Nieto also said he was allocating $8.8 billion for social programs aimed at preventing crime.
Pena Nieto, 46, is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party that ran Mexico for 71 years ending in 2000.
He took office on December 1, replacing Felipe Calderon from the conservative National Action Party (PAN). Presidents in Mexico serve six-year terms and cannot be re-elected.
More than 60,000 people died in the “war on drugs” during the Calderon administration, even though he deployed the country’s armed forces to battle drug gangs.
The Mexican military will remain engaged in security operations until the new national police force is fully trained, Pena Nieto said.