Mexican Presidential Candidate Ebrard Calls for Facial Recognition Network to Cut Crime

(Bloomberg) -- One of the frontrunners to be Mexico’s next president, Marcelo Ebrard, proposed the use of facial recognition technology to combat crime in the first concrete policy proposal since the ruling party’s primary process started last month.

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Ebrard, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, is seeking the nomination of the ruling Morena party of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ahead of elections in June 2024. The race has heated up as candidates have begun touring while still hewing close to the platform of the popular president, before the party is expected to announce its pick in September.

Security cameras linked to databases of faces have been used by governments including China’s, but the European Union and some US states have studied restrictions over privacy fears. Crime is among the top issues concerning Mexican voters, as fighting between organized crime groups has made the country more violent than Colombia in recent years.

“We have to take responsibility for the fact that today the main preoccupation of our people is insecurity, which does not allow us to enjoy our country as we would like,” Ebrard said at a campaign event Monday. “We should have a plan I’ve designed based on the trips I have taken around the world. I’ve been in the most important countries in the world.”

Read More: Mexico Poll Sees AMLO’s Main Succession Candidates Tied

Ebrard also called for weapons tracking to bring violent crime back under control. He didn’t address whether he had suggested these proposals to the president while he was a cabinet member.

Polls show Ebrard neck-and-neck with former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum in voters’ preferences. Lopez Obrador enjoys strong support, but is barred from seeking re-election by Mexico’s constitution. Morena will hold its own polling process, which it has not yet explained in detail, to determine its candidate.

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The unofficial campaign season kicked off in June as politicians competing to be on the ballot for the Morena party started traveling to meet voters in anticipation of the party’s selection. Lopez Obrador, who still has 58% approval rating according to El Financiero, is expected to have some sway over the outcome of the process.

“What he’s doing is trying to put himself at the vanguard, trying to be the first, because he needs people to be talking about him and for the other candidates to be responding,” Lisa Sanchez, director of the non-profit Mexico United Against Crime, said about Ebrard. “It’s a good public relations strategy, but it’s not a serious proposal on security.”

Mexico’s homicide rate has fallen slightly since Lopez Obrador took office in 2018, though remains near record highs, according to data complied by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Read More: AMLO’s Party Kicks Off Succession Fight in Run-Up to 2024 Vote

(Update with mention of crime in first paragraph, timeline in second, AMLO approval in seventh, and analyst comment in eighth.)

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