On May 11, a decree was published in the Official Journal of the Federation (DOF) which states that the Mexican Armed Forces will be allowed to carry out public security duties during the next five years, while the National Guard - a body created by President Andr√©s Manuel L√≥pez Obrador- develops its structure, capabilities and territorial implementation.
Faced with the controversy raised by the announcement, Secretary of Security Alfonso Durazo assured that the objective of the presidential decree is to make the legislative mandate operational, empowering the Armed Forces as the first responders to organized crime.
According to what was published, it is established that "the permanent Armed Force is available to carry out public security tasks in an extraordinary, regulated, controlled, subordinate and complementary manner with the National Guard in the public security functions in charge of the latter".
"During the time in which said police institution develops its structure, capacities, and territorial implementation, without said participation exceeding five years from the entry into force of this Decree", reads the document.
In other words, the Army and the Navy are authorized to act as police forces for the remainder of L√≥pez Obrador's term in office.
In accordance with the law and cited fractions, the Armed Forces will participate in the prevention of the commission of crimes and administrative misdemeanors determined by the applicable legislation. In addition, according to fraction II, they must "safeguard the integrity of persons and their patrimony; guarantee, maintain and restore order and social peace, as well as prevent the commission of crimes.
In accordance with the fractions established for the participation of elements from the Ministry of National Defence, the Mexican Air Force, and the Ministry of the Navy, it is also indicated that, when making arrests, fraction XIII; they must be respectful of human rights, fraction XIV.
The decree also established that the Armed Forces may collaborate in surveillance duties; in the protection of the physical integrity of persons and the preservation of their property, in situations of danger, when they are threatened by situations involving violence or imminent risk; prevent the commission of crimes, as well as guarantee, maintain and restore public peace and order.
They may also cooperate, in accordance with section XXVIII, with other federal, local, or municipal authorities in joint operations. The decree went into effect Tuesday and was signed by President Lopez Obrador; Secretary of National Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval Gonzalez; Secretary of the Navy Jose Rafael Ojeda Duran; and Durazo Monta√Īo himself.
Alfonso Durazo, Secretary of Security (left) and General Sandoval.
During a press conference, L√≥pez Obrador denied that this decree would contribute to the militarization of the country. He recalled that all political parties approved the use of the Army for the protection of citizens and defended this proposal under the argument that the Armed Forces now have a strong human rights profile.
The comment came out in Thursday's morning conference, after being questioned by the issue that has generated wide controversy in the country. Specialists, analysts, and journalists have accused the president of continuing with the militarization of the country. They argue that the intervention of the Armed Forces in the War on Drugs has only increased the violence.
AMLO defended the resolution strongly during the press conference, assuring that the criticisms are the result of "lack of information", and recalled that the modification was approved six months ago in Congress as a constitutional reform: "In a transitory article it was established that a decree had to be issued, this is really a formality. But there was already the approval of Congress and most of the local legislatures".
Furthermore, L√≥pez Obrador said that the Army's behavior under his mandate "is different" than in previous governments, he claims that they will not go out to "invade and declare war on anyone". He said that both the Secretariat of National Defense and the Secretariat of the Navy are in a process of transformation toward respect for human rights.
"This is different, we are not going to give the order for the Army and Navy to repress the people. We are getting very good results from the Army and the National Guard," said the president, adding that there is coordination between the two, but he reiterated that the professionalization and discipline of the former is required to face the problem of security and violence. "I don't want the National Guard to end up like the Federal Police," he added.
"That's why even if I'm criticized for wanting to militarize the country, I'm going to continue to insist that the armed forces must help us in public security tasks. I am convinced that it is necessary".
He was emphatic: "If there is evidence of human rights violations by the National Guard, then we will rectify them. But every day I am vigilant that there are no abuses, no torture, no massacres, no violation of human rights".
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