11 Burned Bodies Found in Southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Nov 27, 2014, 2:37 PM ET

Mexico's president announced a nationwide anti-crime plan on Thursday, the same day police found the partly burned bodies of 11 men dumped on the side of a road in the southern state of Guerrero.

President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed giving Congress the power to dissolve corrupt municipal governments and placing local police forces under the control of the country's 31 state governments. He also called for some form of national identity document.

The plan would also relax the complex divisions between which offenses are dealt with at federal, state and local levels. At present, some local police refuse to act to prevent federal crimes like drug trafficking.

The plan would focus first on four of Mexico's most troubled states, Guerrero, Michoacan, Jalisco and Tamaulipas, sending more federal police and other forces to those states.

The plan came two months after the disappearance of 43 students at a teachers college in the Guerrero city of Iguala. They were reportedly killed and incinerated by a drug gang. Pena Nieto suggested the plan was influenced by those disappearances, whose "cruelty and barbarity have shocked Mexico."

"Mexico cannot go on like this," Pena Nieto said. "After Iguala, Mexico must change."

The reforms, some of which would require constitutional changes, will be formally presented next week.

The focus on corrupt local governments reflects the shocking accusations made about the mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca. Prosecutors say he collaborated with a local drug gang and ordered the detention of the students by local police, who turned them over to gang gunmen.

Municipal governments currently enjoy high levels of autonomy and control their own police forces, something the president is now seeking to weaken.

Pena Nieto began his administration in 2012 hoping to concentrate on economic and legal reforms, and avoid the focus on drug-gang violence that had dominated the term of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

Thursday marked Pena Nieto's first broad policy statement on the subject, tacit acknowledgement that the issue had become unavoidable.

That was made more evident by the dumping of 11 partly burned, decapitated bodies on a road in Guerrero, not far from the rural teachers college that the missing students attended.

The Guerrero state government said the victims had been shot to death, and their heads have not been found. Their bodies were found early Thursday near the city of Chilapa, an area that is known for gang violence and plantations of opium poppies.

The new anti-crime plan follows repeated earlier attempts to tackle the subject, with mixed results.

An anti-crime plan instituted in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in 2010 was credited by some with helping reduce that city's murder rate. In early 2014, a federal plan harnessed the power of citizen vigilante groups to break a drug cartel's stronghold on the western state of Michoacan.

Similar broad, federal anti-crime plans announced in 2004 and 2008 brought some improvements in areas such as vetting of police, but still failed to prevent some entire municipal police forces from being co-opted by crime gangs.