Mexico’s New President Needs a Better Solution to Criminal Violence

Without Smarter Policing, Amnesty and Legalization Won’t Make Mexico Safe

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador talks during a news conference after a meeting with the new members of the Senate and lawmakers of his Party MORENA in Mexico City, July 2018. Carlos Jasso / REUTERS

When Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office as Mexico’s president in December, his biggest challenge will be to stanch the escalating problem of criminal violence. Last year, there were a record-breaking 25,339 murders in Mexico. Armed criminal groups and militias undermine security, particularly in the areas where the illegal drug trade dominates the economy. Local people, alienated from the state, face extortion and abuse but often still look to vigilante groups and criminal organizations for protection.

López Obrador has promised to turn Mexico’s security situation around, largely by focusing on socioeconomic interventions to reduce crime. He has proposed granting conditional amnesty to some accused criminals, and his administration will consider legalizing marijuana and licensing illegal poppy cultivation for the production of medical opiates. The president-elect has also promised to pull the military back from the policing functions it has increasingly assumed.

This program has many promising

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