Mexico's AMLO says army still needed to fight crime

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had little choice but to leave the army in the streets for the time being

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday he would continue deploying the army to fight crime, a controversial strategy that has shattered powerful drug cartels but has been accompanied by an explosion of violence.

The anti-establishment leftist campaigned on a promise to radically change the way Mexico deals with crime, 12 years into a drug war that has left the country weary of gruesome bloodshed and record murder rates.

But he said he had little choice but to leave the army in the streets for the time being, because the police forces are not up to the job.

"We can't stop using the army and marines to guarantee public security, because there's no other alternative immediately available," said Lopez Obrador, who takes office on December 1.

However, he vowed not to shy away from the promises he made during his campaign for the July 1 election, which he won in a landslide.

"I will of course change strategies" for dealing with the country's public-security nightmare, he said.

But "it is widely recognized that the state and local police aren't working. That's the bitter reality.... The federal police aren't prepared."

Mexico has taken down a string of high-profile drug kingpins since deploying the army to fight organized crime in 2006. That job was previously the exclusive domain of police forces that were often unprepared, corrupt or both.

But violent crime has only increased as the fragmented cartels fight turf wars and wage internal power struggles.

Last year was the bloodiest on record in Mexico, with 28,702 murders.

The army meanwhile stands accused of committing human rights abuses in its crack-down on crime.

Lopez Obrador said he would unveil the rest of his security strategy in October.

During his campaign, he controversially proposed an amnesty for criminals -- an idea he waffled on when it triggered outrage among victims' families and others.

He is currently holding a series of public forums in hopes of charting a path to the "pacification of the country and national reconciliation."

But many political analysts say he lacks a clear and coherent strategy to deal with the security issue.