Last Monday, Michoacán’s Commissioner for Security and Development, Alfredo Castillo, announced the apprehension of Manuel Mireles, former leader of the state’s self-defense groups. Meanwhile, in Uruapan, the federal government inaugurated the first stage of the Morelia-Uruapan highway and participated in the National Crusade Against Hunger, alongside interim Governor, Salvador Jara Guerrero. It would appear that, unlike the previous government, the current administration has implemented a strategy that goes beyond facing drug trafficking. But what are its results and implications?
Although there was a belief that solving the problem from the federal sector would return stability to Michoacán, the truth is that the state is still far from ending its security crisis. The number of legal complaints of violent crimes recorded during the period of January and April of this year was almost the same as it was last year. In addition, a good part of the pacifying process has concentrated in the city of Morelia rather than rural areas.
The lack of a proper police and judiciary force in Michoacán has allowed a discretionary use of specific self-defense groups as well as the apprehension of some organized crime leaders. Likewise, the cooptation of some armed forces into the newly created Rural Force has created a division within the self-defense groups that has currently enabled to control them but, at the same time, involves new stakeholders that fight for the monopoly of violence.
What has become clearer is that although the situation has been controlled for now, the reason why Michoacán remains is a red flag is because it cannot be envisioned as a sovereign state. The appointment of Commissioner Castillo represented a violation of the Constitution since the powers of the local Congress were overlooked and the hierarchy of the state and federal authorities was altered. Although the perception of progress remains, the state is further away from being able to address its own crisis.
Finally, another risk is what will prevail in the end will be a political party vision rather than a State outlook. With the coming local elections next year, the federal government’s stance has focused on an overly political purpose by promoting a positive perception of the state. As a matter of fact, all of its efforts have been aimed into winning the election or minimizing its losses next year rather than building a sustainable basis of public security. If we assess the amount of resources – human capital, financial means as well as media coverage – that have been destined for tackling the situation in Michoacán, we should also ask ourselves what can be expected of entities such as Tamaulipas and the State of Mexico, where there is a climate of insecurity that has already surpassed the local government’s control. The country should watch be careful of not ending in the worst possible scenario: a government that has been centralized but is not able to address the corresponding issues.