Friday, December 1, 2023

Census data reveals extent of National Guard militarization

Only 754 civilians joined the National Guard as new recruits in 2021, making up a mere 0.7% of the total force, according to data by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), underscoring the militarization of what was originally a civilian security force.

The data also shows that, out of the 100,332 members of the National Guard, 60.5% come from the Army and 16.7% from the Navy. The remaining 22.1% are associated with the now-defunct Federal Police.

The National Guard was established in 2019 as a civilian-led security force, with both the Constitution and the National Guard Law mandating that the institution be “of a civil, disciplined and professional nature.” However, a recent reform put the National Guard under military control. According to INEGI, of the 33 personnel in charge of state coordination, 87.9% of them are from the army and the remaining commanders are from the navy.

General Leonel Alcaraz Alarcón at his swearing-in ceremony as state coordinator of the National Guard in Zacatecas.
General Leonel Alcaraz Alarcón at his swearing-in ceremony as state coordinator of the National Guard in Zacatecas, on Dec. 9. (Adolfo Vladimir /

Commanders are responsible for managing the National Guard’s resources and operations, as well as overseeing the appointments and removals of the heads of state and special units, among other duties.

In September, INEGI reported that one in four public security institutions are under military command.

In 2019, President López Obrador called on civilians to join the National Guard, stating that “their mission will be to take care of citizens, take care of all of us, to give us security.”

“For this reason, we make this call to all those who want to belong to the National Guard, train to protect citizens, guarantee security, and at the same time, to respect human rights.”

However, despite the president’s statements, the INEGI data underscores the degree to which the National Guard is a military institution.

The military presence in, and control of, the National Guard has been criticized by public security specialists, who note that this contributes to the broader militarization of the country. In October, Congress approved the extension of use of the military for public security until 2028, which had been pushed by the ruling Morena party and also members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Public opinion polls have shown broad support for military involvement in security, but international observers, including Amnesty International and the U.N., have expressed concerns about increased human rights violations as a result of the militarization of law enforcement.

Between 2020 and 2021, complaints filed against the National Guard by citizens have increased 1,369.5%, from 108 to 1,587, according to INEGI. At the same time, sanctions against officers also increased, going from 600 to 7,586. Of all penalties imposed, 65.8% were arrests. The remaining sanctions included reprimands, suspensions, assignment changes and more.

With reports from Animal Político

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