Mexico leader plans to dissolve local police forces

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto talks during his message about the new programme against corruption and new order in the police at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, on Nov 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto talks during his message about the new programme against corruption and new order in the police at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, on Nov 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Mexico’s president announced plans on Thursday to dissolve the country’s corruption-plagued municipal police forces, in a sweeping security reform amid a crisis over the role of gang-linked police in the presumed massacre of 43 students.

“Mexico must change,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a televised speech, following weeks of protests over a case that has highlighted Mexico’s struggle with police corruption.

Pena Nieto said he would send a set of constitutional reforms to Congress on Monday that would allow federal authorities to take over municipalities infiltrated by drug cartels.

He said the measures also include the dissolution of the country’s 1,800 municipal police forces, “which can easily be corrupted by criminals.”

Police duties would be taken over by state agencies in each of the 31 states and the federal district, creating a force that is “more trustworthy, professional and efficient,” he said.

The overhaul would begin in four of the country’s most violent states: Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Michoacan and Guerrero.

Guerrero, in the south of the country, is the state where 43 students vanished on Sept 26 after they were attacked by local police in the city of Iguala.

The case has become a tragic example of collusion between local authorities and organised crime in Mexico, a country struggling with drug violence that has left 100,000 people dead or missing since 2006.

Prosecutors say Iguala’s mayor ordered his police force to confront a group of students over fears they would disrupt a speech by his wife.

Guerreros Unidos gang henchmen confessed to killing the students and incinerating their bodies after officers turned them over.

Hours before Pena Nieto’s announcement, authorities discovered 11 beheaded and burned bodies on a road in Guerrero, just 40km east of Ayotzinapa, where the teacher-training college of the 43 students is located.