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Mexico’s president vows to reduce violence as murder rate soars

Veracruz, Mexico, Apr 22 (EFE).- Following the bloodiest start to a year ever in Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he was sticking with his security strategy and vowed that it would yield results this year.

Lopez Obrador, who held his daily presidential press conference in this Gulf city, and his security team discussed the wave of violence in Mexico and the situation in the eastern state of Veracruz, where 13 people were massacred on Friday in the city of Minatitlan.

Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, blamed the massacre on previous federal and state governments, saying that former officials “colluded” with organized crime groups.

Lopez Obrador, the founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), promised to bring down the crime rate across Mexico within six months.

“The violence was unleashed, but we are stabilizing it, not letting the upward trend in violence continue. It’s going to take us some time, but it will start going down,” AMLO said.

The president said his administration needed six months to let its crime-fighting strategy, which calls for improving citizens’ well-being, putting together the National Guard and eradicating corruption, work.

“Mexicans are not bad by nature,” AMLO said, adding that “the important thing is to have jobs, to help young people and ensure (the) well-being (of the people).”

The Morena party leader, who took office on Dec. 1, discussed the scholarship program introduced by his administration to provide an incentive for young people to not join criminal organizations.

The president touted the creation of the National Guard, a new law enforcement agency that will give the administration thousands of police officers and soldiers who can be deployed to maintain order across Mexico.

Non-governmental organizations criticized the move to create the National Guard.

The new law enforcement agency, whose creation required a constitutional amendment, has been the subject of controversy because opposition and human rights groups contend it will perpetuate the presence of soldiers in the streets.

Opponents of the National Guard argue that the armed forces were involved in numerous cases of human rights violations during the more than one decade in which they waged war on Mexico’s drug cartels.

The militarized war on drugs launched in December 2006 by then-President Felipe Calderon led to more than 200,000 deaths.

“When we have a presence in the entire country, which isn’t the case now, we’ll be able to guarantee public safety,” AMLO said, referring to the National Guard.

The president also said his administration would eradicate the corruption prevalent at all levels of government in Mexico and which was often linked to organized crime.

“They left the country in a sad state of crisis, corruption and collusion between criminals and authorities. This is the inheritance received by the country and, especially, in Veracruz,” Lopez Obrador said.

Last Friday, gunmen killed 13 people – five women, a child and seven men – attending a private party in Minatitlan.

The assailants wanted to take away a man attending the party, but partygoers tried to stop them and were gunned down.

On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a woman who was traveling with her children in an automobile in the southeastern state of Tabasco, killing the mother and wounding two minors.

The victims’ family owns a freight shipping company that operates in an area controlled by gangs involved in fuel theft, a crime that was the subject of a crackdown launched by Lopez Obrador soon after taking office.

A total of 8,493 murders occurred in Mexico in the first quarter of 2019, the highest number of killings since 1997, when the government started keeping murder statistics.

Last year, 33,369 murders were recorded in Mexico, which was governed by Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018, making it the most violent year since 1997.

Critics have ripped Lopez Obrador in recent days, contending that his security strategy has not produced results and for remaining silent after the Minatitlan massacre.

“Our adversaries, who were quiet as mummies when the country was being looted and turned into a cemetery, now scream like hawkers,” AMLO said.

The president also criticized conservative media outlets, promising that “things are going to change for the better in Mexico.”

“They want us to fail, but their wishes are not going to come true,” Lopez Obrador said.

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