24 March 2017

From March 13-16, the Robert Strauss Center’s Mexico Security Initiative Policy Research Project took 13 graduate students on an exciting field trip visit to Mexico City. The objective of this visit was to have students speak directly with professionals who focus on Mexico’s security issues, and who are the architects or analysts of the Mexican government’s policies—as well as for the group to tour the facilities where these practitioners work.

The students had already spent eight months researching different aspects of Mexico’s organized crime challenges as part of the Strauss-sponsored policy research class at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and had had the opportunity to interview security experts such as Alejandro Hope, Ana Maria Salazar, Amb. Antonio Garza, and Consul Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez.

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On day one, the group met with Mr. Renato Sales, head of Mexico’s National Security Commission, and Mr. Manelich Castilla Craviotto, Federal Police Commissioner. Through a candid and open conversation, Commissioners Sales and Castilla shared with the students what they identified as Mexico’s most pressing security concerns, as well as ways in which the country is fighting against organized crime and corruption within security forces. The students were also briefed on the different roles of the Mexican Federal Police, its internal structure and organization, and its innovative econometric models used to map and predict crimes. Afterwards, they toured the Federal Police’s Scientific Unit, including the fascinating forensic analysis labs.

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That afternoon, the MSI group arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, where the students sat down with Ambassador Roberta Jacobson and her team and talked about bilateral security cooperation. After their briefing at the Embassy, the students split into smaller groups to conduct independent interviews with NGOs (such as Amnesty International and Reinserta), national security experts (including former head of CISEN, Guillermo Valdes), diplomats and academics.

During their second day of interviews, the students interacted with members of Mexico’s intelligence community and visited the Mexican Senate building, where they received a special welcome from the Senate’s president, Mr. Pablo Escudero Morales, and Senator Sandra Luz Garcia. They also spoke with Leonel Fernandez Novelo, from the NGO Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano. Mr. Fernandez explained the different ways in which his organization is helping improve the relationship between police forces and civilian organizations. The students then had dinner with four international journalists covering security in Mexico (Bloomberg, Financial Times, Buzzfeed, WSJ), joined by former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza.

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To conclude their visit to Mexico City, the group met with Dr. Sandra Ley (CIDE), Dr. Cecilia Farfan (ITAM), and Dr. Gema Santamaria (ITAM), for a conversation about the effects of violence in politics, the different structures of organized criminal organizations, and lynching in Mexico. Some students also had the opportunity to visit Counselor Jose Eduardo Loreto at the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations and discuss the successes and challenges of the Merida Initiative.

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After their official program, students spent some time visiting Mexico City’s most iconic landmarks and museums, including the Teotihuacan Ruins, the National Anthropology Museum, and the Chapultepec Castle. 

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We thank all of our interviewees for taking the time to meet with our students!

More photos of their trip to Mexico City can be found here.

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