Mexico News Daily, June 24, 2017
Not even 850 Federal Police (PF) officers deployed to Tamaulipas have been able to stop an upsurge of extortion and kidnappings in the central part of the state that prompted hundreds of businesses to close both in protest and out of fear earlier this week.
Violent crime has been particularly bad in several citrus growing municipalities with those affected blaming the army’s withdrawal for the spike in crime, and all indications are that criminal organizations have maintained the upper hand.
Police have been unable to fulfill their objective of protecting income sources and commodity chains in the state.
Consequently, some fruit producers and business owners are questioning why the National Gendarmerie – a special branch of the PF inaugurated in August 2014 by president Peña Nieto – has not been deployed to the area.
One of the stated missions of the specially trained division is to protect production cycles threatened by organized crime, an objective that appears to fit with exactly what is needed.
However, Gendarmerie chief Benjamín Grajeda told the newspaper Reforma that the special forces are currently working in other parts of Tamaulipas including the border city Reynosa and the corridor between Tampico, Ciudad Madero and Altamira, leaving other elements of the PF to patrol the area.
“There is a presence of other divisions of the Federal Police that are carrying out a specific mission.”
But he didn’t rule out the future possibility of sending the specialized branch to the affected area.
“Referring to the occurrence of crimes in the central zone of the state of Tamaulipas, an analysis will need to be done to establish what type of crime the closure of businesses is due to . . . and if necessary determine a probable deployment to the central zone of Tamaulipas.”
Grajeda also stressed that any deployment decisions would be taken jointly with state and local authorities.
“Independent of the analysis we do as Federal Police, we always work in coordination with state and municipal authorities. Although a request from the state is not needed, we always coordinate with them to ensure an adequate employment of forces that are deployed in the state.”
The Gendarmerie chief also rejected any suggestion that the unit is failing in Tamaulipas, pointing to successful outcomes in areas where they are working.
“The joint work of all authorities has given very good results, you can’t say that we failed when the results [in the areas] where we have a presence speak for themselves.”
He offered examples including the recovery of stolen fuel in Altamira and Tampico and a drastic drop in the occurrence of transport theft.
But for hundreds of business owners who are still facing extortion and other threats from criminal organizations and are unable to harvest their crops because of the fear that they may lose their lives for doing so, the words of the Gendarmerie chief may be nothing more than cold comfort.