NIGHTWATCH Extracts: Bottom-Up Anti Corruption

Civil Society, Commerce, Corruption, Law Enforcement

Mexico: BBC reported on 8 August police officers in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico detained their commander at gunpoint, accusing him of corruption and links to drug gangs. More than 200 federal police agents raided the hotel where their commander was staying and accused him of planting drugs on police officers to blackmail them into carrying out extortion. Some of the agents were injured when officers loyal to the commander defended him.

While some agents blocked off nearby streets to prevent their commander from escaping, others moved into the hotel where he was staying. They raided his room, where they say they found weapons and drugs. The federal officers allege that they were part of a stash, which their commander would plant on officers who refused to take part in his corrupt dealings. They say he would then blackmail the agents into carrying out extortion and other crimes.

The police officers held their commander captive until the Federal Police Commissioner General agreed to suspend him, pending an investigation. One of the policemen who took part in the protest told the Associated Press corruption in the higher ranks was putting them in danger. “We risk our lives, we leave families behind and it’s the fault of those officers that we go down,” he said.

Phi Beta Iota: The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has been a success story, despite some internal issues that are under investigation.  What we are seeing across Central America, with El Salvador recently joining the fray, is the emergence of an anti-corruption culture that sees the value of self-policing.  Four challenges remain:

1.  To separate intelligence from security within the hybrid organizations so that security will not fabricate the threat to aggrandize its own budget share.

2.  To regionalize the CICIG concept, centered on a multinational intelligence centre, a Centre for Public Intelligence, that provides a service of common concern.

3.  To stop playing Rambo and making high-profile arrests in blue vest, and get back to the business of bottom-up capability building.  As the young officers in both Guatemala and Mexico have demonstrated, they “get it.”

4. Finally, and this is long over-due, a trusted study must be done of what the oligarchs and business sector are paying in extortion and private security, in order to demonstrate to them as a group that what they are paying is three to five times what they would pay in legitimate taxes, that in turn would provide BOTH common security AND a public safety net.