Sunday, October 25, 2009

First-Rate Stuff

Via Boz, John Lyons of the Wall Street Journal has a really good profile of Genaro García Luna on its website. Here's a taste:
To give the new federal force a fighting chance, Mr. García Luna has provided officers with souped-up patrol cars, body armor, AR-15 assault rifles and an array of technology including surveillance balloons that hover above cities. He guards these assets jealously, and senior Federal Police officers say he gets particularly upset when an officer crashes one of the fleet of Dodge Charger squad cars he acquired.

For the first time, Mexico is putting together a national database of vehicle registrations, arrest warrants, jail inmates and other data, a crucial tool for nabbing fugitives.

Of course, all the fancy technology in the world can't take down drug gangs if the police themselves remain corrupt and inefficient. That is where Mr. García Luna's plan to recruit middle-class college graduates comes in. Many in this demographic have a hard time finding good jobs in a sluggish economy where the highest paying positions still tend to go to the elites. And though Mexican law enforcement has always favored brawn over brains, recruiting primarily from the lower classes, Mr. García Luna says the world's best police agencies actually have it the other way around: "When I first visited the FBI, I realized most everyone there had master's degrees. Why can't we do that?"
It says that Federal Police officers have a base salary of 16,000 pesos (about $1,200) a month, which is quite good. (It's hard to generalize, but I'd say that a 26-year-old graduate from a non-prestigious university would be really lucky to make that kind of cash without family connections playing a role; indeed, even a recent grad from a high-end private university would be fortunate to walk right into a job that paid like that.) It's probably not enough for many to stave off the temptation of drug cash, but it certainly is enough to attract more talented people.

The finale is also dead on:
Even if Mr. García Luna proves he is clean, his biggest obstacle may be time. Mexican politicians are not big on institutional continuity, meaning the Federal Police could be dismantled and Mr. García Luna pushed out the door after elections in 2012.
Of course, as good as this one was, for the reigning champ of American media profiles of Genaro García Luna, one must click here.

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