Lawmakers in Guerrero and Campeche unanimously approved yesterday the proposal to create a national guard the day after it passed the lower house of the federal Congress.
A simple majority of Mexico’s 32 state congresses must ratify the proposal in order for the new security force to be created.
In Guerrero, one of Mexico’s most violent states, there was no debate about the federal government’s plan to create the new force, which will initially be made up of just over 60,000 members, including Federal Police officers, military police and naval police.
By voting in favor of the proposal, all 31 deputies present in the state Congress yesterday expressed confidence that the deployment of the force will help to reduce spiraling rates of violence in the country.
Congress president and Morena party Deputy Antonio Helguera declared in an interview after the vote that it was “mission accomplished.”
The lawmaker warned, however, that federal authorities must take care to ensure that the national guard maintains total respect for human rights while working to combat insecurity.
A range of non-governmental organizations and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) have warned that the creation of the guard will perpetuate a failed militarized crime-fighting strategy first implemented by former president Felipe Calderón in 2006, and result in more human rights violations being committed by the armed forces.
In order to win support in federal Congress for the constitutional amendments required to create the national guard, the government agreed to modify its proposal so that the security force will have a civilian command rather than a military one.
Members of the military will only be permitted to carry out public security tasks for a period of five years after the security force’s creation.
Those recruited for the national guard will lose their military fuero or immunity and be tried in civilian courts if accused of committing abuses or human rights violations.
On Thursday, the federal Chamber of Deputies approved the national guard proposal with only one lawmaker voting against it.
Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said that he hoped that state congresses would complete the ratification process within four months.
Durazo also said he hoped that through intense recruitment the size of the national guard would increase to 150,000 by the end of the year although he acknowledged that 360,000 members would be the ideal number.
However, some security experts have expressed skepticism that the creation of the force will be successful in combating insecurity in Mexico.
“Operationally, it doesn’t change anything,” Mexico City security analyst Jaime López Aranda told The New York Times, referring to the dual civilian and military policing model.
Asked whether the national guard would reduce crime and violence, he responded: “Of course not. It’s the same people doing the exact same stuff.”