State PR exercise fails
22 Jul 11

Last May, the national television network Televisa transmitted a new series about the Mexican federal police. El Equipo is similar to US crime dramas like CSI which are popular in Mexico. It was shown nightly for three weeks, with each episode exalting the role of the Mexican Federal Police — on the show, unlike in real life, they always get the bad guy. The production did not cut corners. It was created by top Televisa producer Pedro Torres, and Federal Police officers appeared with extras. The series also used real police equipment and was shot in high security police compounds.

The homegrown series only gained a modest following. This may have been due to media criticism, which termed the show a public relations effort by National Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. But the series hit the airwaves as a growing anti-violence civil movement, led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia swelled in ranks, and the Mexican government war on drugs suffered yet more setbacks.

The show producers said the series had a tough beginning as it was broadcast at 10pm, when popular soap operas dominate the airwaves. Some analysts suggested the low audience audience figures were due to the viewer saturation with the violence. Nightly Mexican television news shows are dominated by bloody confrontations between Mexican police and drug traffickers. On the other hand it could be suggested that Mexican viewers, so accustomed to years of exposure to corrupt policemen who demand payoffs and are involved in organised crime, have a hard time imagining that El Equipo’s thoughtful officers are real.

There are efforts underway to create a national police force. This would create a more unified police front to coordinate more than 400 state and municipal police bodies which currently operate throughout Mexico. The government has engaged in an anti-corruption crusade that applies tough polygraph exams and reviews of individual cops. But the drug war has also pitted police forces with drug cartels that have better firepower and more money.

This month after it was revealed that the government paid close to 10m dollars to produce the 15 episode series —about 1.1m per chapter. It turns out the show was just a state public relations effort to show citizens that not all policemen are corrupt, and it flopped.