The top three contenders for Mexico's presidency in the July 1 election all have promised a major shift in the drug war strategy, placing a higher priority on reducing violence than on using arrests and seizures to block the flow of drugs to the U.S., the New York Times reports. The candidates say they intend to withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight. They are concerned that it has proved unfit for police work and has contributed to the 50,000 death toll since departing president Felipe Calderón made the military a cornerstone of his battle against drug traffickers more than five years ago.
The front-runner, Enrique Peña Nieto, does not emphasize stopping drug shipments or capturing drug kingpins. He says that while Mexico should continue to work with the U.S. against organized crime, it should not “subordinate to the strategies of other countries.” “The task of the state, what should be its priority from my point of view, and what I have called for in this campaign, is to reduce the levels of violence,” he said in an interview. U.S. officials have been careful not to weigh in on the race or the prospect of a changed strategy, for fear of being accused of meddling. An Obama administration official said Peña Nieto's demand that the U.S. respect Mexican priorities “is a sound bite he is using for obvious political purposes.”