President López Obrador formally inaugurated the National Guard at a ceremony in Mexico City yesterday during which he acknowledged that his government has not yet made progress in combating the high levels of insecurity.
The president said that 70,000 members of the security force will initially be deployed to 150 regions across Mexico and that its ranks will swell to 150,000 by 2021.
Addressing 10,000 new National Guardsmen as well as lawmakers and officials gathered at a military field in the capital, López Obrador said that under his administration “the economy is good, we’re doing well in policy” and corruption and impunity are no longer tolerated.
However, he added that “solving the serious problem of insecurity and violence is something we still have to do.”
“In that area, we can’t say that we’ve advanced. Unfortunately, in that area the same conditions that we inherited from previous governments prevail . . .” López Obrador said.
In fact, they are worse. Homicide numbers for the first five months of the year were just over 4% higher than those recorded in the same period of 2018, which was the most violent year in recent history.
But the government is confident that the National Guard will be successful in reducing crime rates, and the president yesterday told its members that he had faith in them while also urging them to act professionally and with honesty and integrity.
“Don’t forget that the carrying out of the fourth transformation of public life by all Mexicans is going to depend a lot on your work. You, the members of the National Guard, have to . . . be the principal actors of this transformation . . .” López Obrador said.
He pledged that all National Guard members will be paid good salaries and receive attractive benefits – adequate remuneration is considered essential in order to dissuade troops from engaging in corruption.
For his part, Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo described combating the security situation inherited from past federal administrations as the government’s biggest challenge but added that he was optimistic that it is one to which the National Guard will rise.
“The National Guard will mark the beginning of the end of the violence in our country. With complete responsibility, we can say that . . . the darkest days of insecurity will stay in the past,” he said.
In contrast, National Guard Commander Luis Rodríguez Bucio urged caution with regards to expectations for the new security force in consideration of the magnitude of the task it faces.
“. . . However, in the medium and long term, the expectations with respect to the National Guard are of the highest level,” he added.
Secretary of National Defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, and Secretary of the Navy, José Rafael Ojeda, both expressed their full support for the Guard, which despite being made up chiefly of military personnel is legally considered a civilian security force.
Several human rights groups spoke out against the creation of the National Guard, charging that it its deployment would only perpetuate the unsuccessful militarization model that was implemented by former president Felipe Calderón and continued by the previous government.
To counter concerns, Durazo said in January that the government had asked lawmakers to modify the original plan in order to create a National Guard with a civilian command.
However, in an opinion piece published today in the newspaper El Universal, and in a series of Twitter posts, prominent security analyst Alejandro Hope asserted that the National Guard is a “military institution, whatever the constitution says.”
He pointed out that the force’s commander is a current military general, that all of its regional coordinators are from the armed forces and that 75% of its first members will be soldiers or marines.
Hope also said that induction courses are being carried out at military barracks, that state and municipal governments are donating land for National Guard facilities to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) rather than the Secretariat of Security and that Sedena is purchasing equipment for the new force.
“What more evidence is needed?” he asked.
Source: Milenio (sp)