The military will assume control of Mexico’s customs offices and ports, President López Obrador announced Friday as efforts to eliminate corruption continue at ports of entry.
“Land and maritime customs (offices) are going to be in the charge of the army and the navy to ensure safety and avoid the introduction of drugs,” López Obrador said Friday at a press briefing in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico’s busiest port. “Ports and customs have long been enclaves of corruption,” the president stated.
The move is just another step in the president’s reliance on the military to keep the peace. In addition, López Obrador has charged the military with building a new airport in Santa Lucia to serve Mexico City, as well as the construction of social welfare agency bank branches.
Mexico’s head of customs, Horacio Duarte, said the military will work in coordination with agents under his charge in order to prevent illegal drugs, guns and cash from entering the country and to enforce the payment of duties on taxable goods at the country’s 49 borders and 116 maritime ports.
Duarte said that annual customs revenue amounts to some 900 billion pesos, around US $40 billion.
López Obrador’s order comes despite the fact that Mexico’s Congress had frozen an initiative that would assign control of the country’s ports to the navy. It also violates legal statutes dictating that customs officials be civilians, Duarte said.
The military’s presence at borders has done little to staunch corruption at ports of entry, where corruption is rampant. Reforma reports that criminal organizations were able to bring a variety of illegal goods into Tamaulipas in 2017 by paying a US $300 fee to customs agents. Larger illicit shipments were allowed to pass after gangsters paid a bribe of some US $2,000.
Customs officials need to be on the alert for contraband in any form, Duarte said, including imports to the country that are deliberately undervalued to minimize tariffs.