26 November 2008

Deputies dispute plan for overhauling police

Policia de Oaxaca

The News

Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday rejected proposals for creating a single federal police force under the command of the Public Security Secretariat, or SSP, but signaled their willingness to back other safety measures proposed by President Felipe Calderón.

"We don't want to see a single police force," Deputy Francisco Rivera Bedoya, the president of the Public Security Committee and a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, told The News. "We want to see better coordination between [all of the forces] rather than a single federal police force."

The opposition to the policing proposal will mean more delays on security measures proposed this summer. Lawmakers will likely miss a Saturday deadline for achieving the 74 public security objectives laid out at an August federal crime summit.

Lawmakers on Tuesday expressed little discomfort over missing the deadline, however.

"Our commitment is to introduce legislation during our normal period of sessions, which ends Dec. 15," said Senate president Gustavo Madero.

Since the summit, Calderón has presented measures that would change sentencing laws, target the assets of those affiliated with organized crime, crack down on kidnapping and decriminalize the possession of small quantities of drugs.

He also proposed revisions to the National Security System Law, calling for the merger of the Federal Preventive Police, or PFP, and Federal Investigations Agency, or AFI, and proposing the new force be granted broader preventive and investigative responsibilities. But the country's two main opposition parties - the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, and the PRI - almost immediately voiced objections.

On Tuesday, PRI lawmakers objected to increasing the budget for the federal police at the expense of the state forces, as well as the creation of a more powerful SSP led by Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna. The PRD also objected.

Members of Calderón's National Action Party, or PAN, backed the measure, saying it would improve local police.

"We have 2,438 municipalities with police forces, 32 [states and districts] with police chiefs, plus federal forces," PAN Dep. Edgar Olvera, the secretary of the Public Security Committee, told The News. "We're a country with a large number of police forces, but without a law for coordination and cooperation."

Olvera also discarded PRI complaints that reducing money for local police forces is "violating state sovereignty," saying that the PRI is using that argument to evade accountability. The PRI currently governs 18 states and its governors wield enormous influence within the party.

"The state governors - the majority of them PRIístas - want to receive the money," Olvera said. "They all want to receive the money, but they don't want to accept the rules. They all want to have discretion with the resources."

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