Hundreds of National Guard (GN) members have been investigated internally for extortion since 2019, suggesting that the criminal practice is a significant problem in the security force created by the current federal government.
However, impunity appears to be rife, with the vast majority of investigations failing to end in punishment.
The GN’s internal affairs unit launched 988 probes into the allegedly improper or criminal conduct of 1,460 guardsmen and guardswomen between July 1, 2019 – the day after the GN was officially inaugurated – and February 28, 2022, according to official information obtained by the newspaper Milenio via freedom of information requests.
Just over half of those investigations – 495 or 50.1% of the total – were for extortion.
All told, the GN’s internal affairs unit initiated investigations into 44 different misdemeanors or crimes allegedly committed by members of the quasi-militarized security force, but only two of 421 concluded probes established guilt.
After extortion, the most commonly investigated offense was abuse of authority with 102 probes followed by theft of assets belonging to the GN with 73 investigations and general theft with 54 cases.
Among the other offenses investigated were failure to conduct oneself with dedication and discipline; engaging in conduct that harms the image of the GN; asking for gifts; links to organized crime; bribery; illicit enrichment; and petroleum theft.
The 988 investigations examined conduct by National Guard members who work in 17 different areas of the force.
The division responsible for guaranteeing security on the nation’s highways has the highest number of allegedly unscrupulous cops with 626 coming under investigation. That figure accounts for 43% of all GN members accused of wrongdoing in the 32-month period for which Milenio obtained information.
While 421 of the 988 investigations were concluded, only two were referred to the “relevant collegiate body” in order for punishment of the guilty GN members to be determined. The other 419 concluded probes – 99.5% of the total – were deemed to be based on unsubstantiated complaints.
The information obtained by Milenio didn’t say what punishment was handed down to the GN members involved in the two cases that were substantiated. There are 567 internal investigations that haven’t yet been finished.
Milenio also obtained information that showed that over 70% of guardsmen and guardswomen are not certified. Of 102,751 members of the security force, just 27,938, or 27% of the total, have certification known as the Certificado Único Policial (CUP).
It verifies that a GN member has completed all relevant training and passed confidence and control tests.
Ricardo Márquez Blas, a security specialist who was a high-ranking security official in the previous federal government, sees a correlation between the high number of uncertified Guard members and the high number of investigations into illegal acts allegedly committed by members of the security force.
He told Milenio that there is little clarity about what the process is for dealing with uncertified GN members, who “theoretically shouldn’t belong to any police force.”
Márquez also said that the performance of the GN is “far below the expectations of society, citizens and … the commitments made by the current government,” which has given the security force a central role in the fight against crime.
Insecurity remains a major problem in Mexico almost three years after the National Guard – which superseded the Federal Police – was established.
Márquez said that the operational efficiency of the GN – led by army general Luis Rodríguez Bucio – is below that of the nation’s police forces, many of which have their own problems with uncertified and untrustworthy officers.
“Data from 2020 shows the operational disaster that exists in the country’s police forces. A state police or municipal police officer makes one arrest a year,” he said, adding that there is only one arrest annually for every 13 GN members.
“While the state and municipal police have a very low operational level, the operational efficiency of the National Guard is much worse,” Márquez said.
With reports from Milenio