PepsiCo, Inc. : Leading Mexican Presidential Candidate Mum On Possible Pacts With Drug Gangs
05/29/2012| 03:43pm US/Eastern
The leading candidate for the Mexican presidency missed an opportunity Tuesday to deny assertions that his party would cooperate with powerful and increasingly bold drug cartels should it win the July presidential election.
Speaking before directors of the country's largest bank, Enrique Pena Nieto said he didn't want to comment on the allegations so as to not fuel an argument put forth by his political adversaries regarding possible collusion between drug cartels and his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until it was voted out of power in 2000.
"The goal should be to reduce violence in the country," Pena Nieto said, remarking that the current government has notched some achievements in the drug war, but that it has also made plenty of mistakes.
The current government's strategy has been "unilateral and without cooperation," Pena Nieto said, arguing for greater involvement in the drug war from different levels of government as well as for a new armed force similar to the U.S. National Guard that could be dispatched to problem areas.
Pena Nieto, a former governor of the state of Mexico, has a wide lead in polls. But his party has been dogged by allegations from political foes that its leaders, including several state governors, protected drug gangs during their tenures and allowed the gangs' heft to grow unchecked.
An estimated 50,000 people have died in Mexico over the past five-plus years as drug cartels fight each other for control of territory from which they transport drugs to the U.S. The government of President Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party, or PAN, has relied mostly on federal police and the military to combat the drug gangs, not trusting local authorities widely viewed as corrupt.
Drug gangs engage in other forms of organized crime, such as extortion and kidnapping. Last week, in a new threat for private businesses, a group calling itself the Knights Templar allegedly set fire to five warehouses and numerous delivery trucks belonging to PepsiCo Inc.'s (PEP) Mexican snacks division, Sabritas.
Many suspect the attacks on Sabritas were in retaliation to allegations that Mexican authorities used the multinational company's extensive fleet of delivery trucks to gather intelligence on drug cartels.
Speaking Tuesday at the same forum, which was organized by the Mexican unit of Spanish financial group Banco Bilbao Vicaya Argentaria SA (BBVA, BBVA.MC), PAN's presidential candidate emphasized her determination to not form any "pacts" or "truce" with organized crime figures.
"Organized crime exists all over the world, what varies is the application of the law and level of complicity," said Josefina Vazquez Mota. "When you have a good police force, organized crime does not have as much room to maneuver."
-By Amy Guthrie, Dow Jones Newswires; email@example.com