President López Obrador on Monday officially handed control of the government’s ports and merchant marine department to the Ministry of the Navy (Semar).
The department was formerly managed by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation but the federal government last year decided to hand it over to the navy, a move that triggered the resignation of former communications and transportation minister Javier Jiménez Espriú.
López Obrador formalized the transfer at a ceremony in the port city of Veracruz to mark Mexico’s annual Navy Day. He said the navy is the institution best prepared to defend Mexico and combat the importation of illegal drugs via the country’s ports.
Communications and Transportation Minister Jorge Arganis said the process to hand over the ports to Semar was seamless.
“Today, June 1, we’re completing an impeccable delivery of the General Coordination of Ports and Merchant Marine to the Semar authorities,” he said.
“We can inform you [Mr. President] that we’ve complied with your instruction and we’re absolutely convinced that the operation of the ports is in the best hands.”
Navy chief José Rafael Ojeda pledged to put an end to corruption at Mexico’s ports and maritime customs.
“We’re going to focus on eradicating any act of corruption and poor management,” he said before ruling out any possibility that the country’s ports will be militarized.
Ojeda said that the personnel who will manage the ports won’t be “makeshift” officials but highly-trained professionals well suited to carrying out the tasks the president has entrusted to the navy.
“… There will be … changes in the administration of the ports in order to make their operation more efficient. On the customs side, we commit to carrying out an administration that is free of corruption and of course very efficient; foreign trade won’t be affected,” he said.
López Obrador has justified his decision to give the navy control of the ports by saying that it is best placed to root out longstanding corruption. Since taking office in late 2018, he has delegated a range of non-traditional tasks to the armed forces, including public security, infrastructure construction and the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines. The president announced last month that the navy will also be given control of the new Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor once it is completed.
López Obrador has defended his heavy reliance on the armed forces, casting the military as an honest institution and an essential ally in the fight against corruption.
Source: El Universal (sp)