Military chiefs pledged loyalty to President López Obrador on Wednesday, dispelling fears of a rift between the top ranks of the armed forces and the president that arose following reports three weeks ago of a critical speech made by a retired army general.
At a ceremony in Mexico City to mark the 109th anniversary of the start of the Mexican Revolution, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval assured López Obrador that “we are loyal and we will always continue to be.”
The “institutional maturity” of the army “is forged from adherence to the rule of law and subordination to” Mexico’s civilian government, he said.
“The will to serve Mexico with dedication and institutionality is permanent. Mr. President, we will not betray your trust,” Cresencio said.
The army chief told the president that soldiers and marines “feel honored” to work for the good of Mexico because they know that their efforts are directed at achieving “the transformation of Mexico that you are leading.
“We support your government’s project with loyalty, professionalism and honesty. We are loyal and have profound respect for the presidential institution you represent,” Cresencio said.
Navy Secretary José Rafael Ojeda also assured the president that the military will maintain loyalty.
“Let us always remember that we are men and women at the nation’s service. Always loyal to Mexico’s president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, always loyal to Mr. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and to the people of Mexico and their democratically expressed will,” he said.
The pledges of loyalty came three weeks after the publication of remarks made by retired general Carlos Gaytán that were highly critical of López Obrador. A transcript of the October 22 speech was leaked to the newspaper La Jornada.
Gaytán’s address at the Defense Secretariat to current and former high-ranking military officials, including Cresencio, came five days after the botched operation in Culiacán, Sinaloa, to capture a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
The security cabinet’s decision to release Ovidio Guzmán López in the face of an unprecedented show of strength by the Sinaloa Cartel was widely criticized on the grounds that it represented a capitulation by the military to organized crime.
“We are worried about today’s Mexico. We feel aggrieved as Mexicans and offended as soldiers,” Gaytán said in his speech, whose purpose, according to national security experts Javier Oliva Posada and Guillermo Garduño Valero, was to respond to the failed Culiacán operation on behalf of the army and express its disapproval of the security cabinet’s decision.
The retired general’s comments raised concerns of a rift between the military and López Obrador, whose non-confrontational security strategy has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the events in Culiacán and other incidents of violence.
The military’s show of support also came amid growing concern from the Latin American left about the role that the military played in the November 10 resignation of Bolivian president Evo Morales.
Mexico, which has granted political asylum to Morales, characterized his ousting as a coup.
At Wednesday’s Revolution Day ceremony, López Obrador promoted the Air Force pilot who brought the Bolivian leader to Mexico to general de ala, or wing general, in recognition of the successful completion of his mission.
The president also gave Miguel Eduardo Hernández a personalized letter that praised him for his role in “guaranteeing the institutional right to asylum” in Mexico.