Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has declared the end of his country’s war on drugs, saying that his government no longer considers the fight against narcotics a priority.
Obrador said during a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on Wednesday that Mexico would no longer prioritize using the army to capture cartel kingpins and would instead concentrate on ensuring public safety and reducing the number of murders.
“There is no war; officially there is no more war,” the Mexican president said in response to a question from a reporter who said there had been no kingpin arrests since he took office in December last year.
“We want peace; we are going to get peace. We haven’t detained capos because that is not our principal mission. The principal mission of the government is to guarantee public security… What we want is security, to reduce the daily number of homicides,” he added.
The 65-year-old leftist leader assumed office early last month, vowing to tackle corruption, high murder rates, and chronic poverty in the Latin American country.
Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has pledged to end the neo-liberal economic policies of his predecessors.
Mexico began the fight against its powerful drug mafia in 2006 under then-President Felipe Calderon, who summoned army units to counter cartel kingpins and announced a hunt for the most notorious leaders of the Mexican criminal networks.
Enrique Pena Nieto, the successor to Calderon, continued the policy of his predecessor and ordered the arrest of a number of famous drug lords, including the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman, nicknamed El Chapo, who has been extradited to the United States and is on trial there.
Mexico has registered more than 200,000 murders since the military was sent into the streets 13 years ago as part of anti-drug operations, and some of its states have homicide rates on par with the most violent countries in the world.
According to the Mexican Civil Protection Ministry, a record 33,341 people were murdered in Mexico in 2018, making it the bloodiest year in over two decades.
The bodies of at least 166 people have been found in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
The bulk of the deaths have been recorded in states that drug cartels traditionally use as their bastions, such as Guerrero in the south and Veracruz in the east.
Experts say most of the murders in Mexico are related to drug trafficking and say the government crackdown that began more than a decade ago is to blame for the increasing homicide rate. Some also say that the increase in the number of drug-related murders is also due to a surge in the number of autonomous cells that have been created across Mexico after heads of major drug cartels were captured and prosecuted.
Mexico is said to be a key source and transit country for heroin, marijuana, and synthetic drugs that arrive in North America, as well as a primary transit route for South America’s cocaine.