Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Mexico's new security chief hailed

Francisco Blake, left, shakes hands with president Felipe Calderon (AP)

Mexico's president has accepted the resignation of his top domestic security official, interior secretary Fernando Gomez Mont, and named a former congressman with experience in fighting drug cartels to replace him.

President Felipe Calderon praised the hands-on experience the new federal interior secretary, Jose Francisco Blake, gained serving in the same post at the state level in Baja California, a border state plagued by drug violence.

"In that position, he played a fundamental role in confronting in a decisive way the problems of violence in that state," Mr Calderon said of Mr Blake, who will oversee the multi-agency national security council.

"The knowledge he has of crime, and the good relations he managed to build between the police and army in the fight against crime in Baja California, will without doubt be of great value in strengthening the fight for public safety," Mr Calderon said.

Mexico's federal police and the army played the leading roles in a war against drug cartels that has cost more than 22,700 lives since Mr Calderon announced an anti-drug offensive in late 2006.

But in many regions, the army voiced mistrust of corruption-ridden local police forces.

The Interior Department that Mr Blake will head plays a key role in co-ordinating efforts between the forces and intelligence gathering. It also recently began promoting a series of social programmes it said are aimed at reducing the poverty and unemployment that contribute to the drug problem.

One of the challenges facing the new interior secretary will be gaining approval for a government proposal to combine scattered, ill-equipped and poorly supervised city police forces into single, statewide forces.

Mr Calderon praised Mr Gomez Mont, but more for his efforts at political reforms since assuming the post in November 2008 than for any hands-on involvement in the war against drug cartels.

Mr Gomez Mont's most famous moment in the drug war was an undignified incident in the drug-plagued border city of Ciudad Juarez when a heckler slapped him in the back of the head.

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