Former president Felipe Calderón hit back yesterday at the government’s insinuation that he is involved in the protests by Federal Police against their incorporation into the National Guard, while officers continue to demonstrate in Mexico City today.
President López Obrador claimed on Wednesday that there is a “dark hand” behind the protests and Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo told a press conference yesterday that “it’s not a coincidence that one of the representatives of the Federal Police asked ex-president Felipe Calderón to be their union representative.”
He charged that “critics of the government” are taking advantage of the officers’ protests to try to damage the López Obrador administration, and accused a human rights activist who was previously imprisoned on kidnapping charges as being one of the chief instigators of the demonstrations.
Later yesterday, Calderón posted a video message to social media to reject what he called a “cowardly insinuation.”
The former National Action Party president demanded Durazo present proof to back up his claims or else “immediately withdraw his slander.”
Calderón declined the invitation to represent the police, stating that he would be more hindrance than help because “in the government and particularly in the secretariat [of security], prejudices, insecurities and fears reign.”
He called on the government to listen to the officers’ grievances and urged the police to protest peacefully and in a way that “doesn’t harm the public.”
Calderón also urged the president to refrain from discrediting those who don’t think as he does. “We are all Mexicans and I ask you respectfully to stop dividing Mexico.”
Durazo later denied that he had explicitly linked Calderón to the protests, and said that in any case the government wouldn’t have any problem if he were representing or advising the Federal Police.
“The name of the ex-president was put forward by one of the self-proclaimed representatives of the discontent [officers] who said that it would be an honor if the former president Felipe Calderón assumed the leadership of the organization that the disgruntled police are establishing,” the security secretary told broadcaster Grupo Fórmula.
“We have only referred to the ex-president in relation to the statement of that supposed representative . . . whatever his position is, it’s respectable. We don’t have any problem with him having a critical position with respect to the government’s initiatives . . .” Durazo added.
The government has maintained that Federal Police officers are not being forced to join the National Guard and that their salaries and benefits won’t be cut.
But the officers remain unconvinced and gathered again this morning outside police headquarters in the eastern borough of Iztapalapa.
Police have also continued to block some roads in the capital but the toll booth entrance to the Mexico City-Pachuca highway was cleared this morning.
Smaller protests have been reported in some other states including Veracruz, Querétaro, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
In addition to demanding that their pay and benefits be maintained at current levels or increased, officers have called for the resignation of corrupt police commanders and officials, and expressed opposition to being subjected to military evaluations and having to live under poor conditions while on deployments away from home, among other complaints.
They also claim that they will be dismissed if they refuse to join the National Guard, even though López Obrador and Durazo have denied that is the case.
The latter said yesterday that after the Federal Police is disbanded – which is expected to occur within the next 18 months – officers will enter the National Guard or, if they prefer, a range of other organizations such as the National Immigration Institute, Civil Protection services, customs or the National Anti-Kidnapping Commission.
This morning, police demanded Durazo’s presence at a meeting scheduled for 1:00pm, asserting that they are open to dialogue.
Officers also guaranteed the safety of the security secretary after he accused them of having stolen ammunition and police vehicles.
“We simply want him to come, tell us his position and to be a coherent person so that he understands what we want. We won’t be aggressive towards him in any way,” the police said in a message to the media.
“It’s been said that we hijacked vehicles and ammunition and that’s not true. We don’t have any kinds of weapons in our hands . . .”
One officer told the newspaper El Financiero that he hoped to get a “positive response” from government officials at today’s meeting in order to resolve the issues “once and for all.”