Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has submitted a reform to congress putting the country’s 118,000-strong National Guard under the command of the defense ministry, despite the constitution stating the force must operate under civilian leadership.
The move has alarmed civil society and human rights organizations, who warn that it further militarises public security and hands still more power to the generals.
They question the efficacy of the National Guard, which has lacked transparency in its operations since it was created in 2019. “The purpose of this initiative is not to militarise the country or establish authoritarianism, but to care for, with [Defence Ministry] guidance, the healthy growth of what should be Mexico’s main public security institution,” López Obrador said on Wednesday night. The leftwing president’s proposal comes as violence convulses Mexico.
Drug cartels are battling each other for territory and turning to terror tactics such as mobilizing thugs, who, during an especially bloody week in August, randomly killed civilians and burnt trucks, buses, and businesses. López Obrador has played down violence and insisted public safety in Mexico is improving. He accused the press of sensationalism in covering recent spasms of narco-violence. “Without doubt, our opponents are exaggerating,” he said in August.
“There is no great problem.” Congress has 30 days to vote on the initiative, which would change laws governing the National Guard and transfer funds from the public security ministry to the military, but not change the constitution. The president’s Morena party and its allies hold majorities in both houses of Congress,