- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Marisol Valles, a 20-year-old criminology student, has just been named police chief for the town of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, near the U.S. border. Reportedly, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for the job — others members of the force have been abducted and killed by narcotraffickers in recent years:
The new police chief heads a force of just 13 agents, nine of them women, with one working patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol. Gunmen killed a local official and his son last weekend as Valles prepared to start her job.
"We are doing this for a new generation of people who don’t want to be afraid anymore. Everyone is frightened – it is very natural," she told Mexican media. "My motive for being here is that one can do a lot for the town … we are going to make changes and get rid of a little of the fear in every person."
Her force would focus on a non-violent role of promoting values and principles and preventing crime, she added.
Asked about her force’s lack of firepower, Valles says, "The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention."
Valles fully deserves the media coverage that has described her as the "bravest woman in Mexico" for taking the job. But of course, the cynical take on this story is that the town seems to have basically given up on combating traffickers. A small force devoted to promoting public welfare rather than making arrests seems a lot like like de facto legalization. It will be interesting to see if the model spreads.