A deputy leader of Mexico’s ruling party warned yesterday that the creation of a national guard under the command of the army could lead to the military deciding who the next president and government would be.
And it appears people in the right places were listening. Federal Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo announced today that President López Obrador had decided that the National Guard should have a civilian command.
“I’m clearly in favor of a civilian command, not a military command . . .” Tatiana Clouthier said during a public debate in the Chamber of Deputies.
However, the deputy leader of the Morena party in the lower house of Congress added that if it’s the military that is ultimately chosen to head the new security force, it should only be given a three-year mandate, not five years as proposed.
“. . . Having five years of military command would be [as good as] saying that it’s the military command that’s going to end up deciding who will govern us for the next six years [from 2024] in this country. I refuse to support that prelude,” Clouthier said.
Two weeks before he was sworn in as president on December 1, Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced a new national security plan whose central element was the creation of national guard under the control of the army.
The plan was criticized by a range of non-governmental organizations, which argued that it would perpetuate the failed militarization model introduced by former president Felipe Calderón in 2006.
Human Rights Watch called the strategy a “colossal mistake” and “potentially disastrous.”
Jan Jarab, the Mexico representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that the national guard proposal doesn’t provide any guarantees that human rights violations committed by the armed forces in the past won’t occur again.
Speaking in the Congress yesterday, he also said that a proposal to give the national guard the authority to investigate crimes was concerning.
Jarab added: “Since the deployment of the armed forces to carry out security tasks, violence in the country has skyrocketed . . .This doesn’t seem the optimal way to achieve security.”
He urged lawmakers to be “thoughtful” in their consideration of the national guard proposal and to act in strict accordance with Mexico’s international human rights commitments.
The head of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) proposed the creation of a new civil force to combat the high levels of violent crime plaguing Mexico.
“We can’t place the direct protection of rights, within our constitutional system, in [the hands of] military bodies or structures,” Luis Raúl González Pérez said.
Secretary Durazo said today that López Obrador had taken on board the different opinions about the leadership of the national guard.
“The president has listened with great interest to the different arguments presented by the people of Mexico and now in these forums organized by the Chamber of Deputies . . .” he said.
Durazo asked lawmakers to modify the original initiative in order to create a national guard with a civilian command but with the same levels of discipline and training as the armed forces.
The secretary said the new force would be the responsibility of the Secretariat of Public Security, not the Secretariat of National Defense as previously proposed.
Clouthier celebrated the move on Twitter. “Great,” she wrote, attaching a video of Durazo’s announcement to her post.