Mexico to hand army control of National Guard, sparking outcry

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Opposition lawmakers pledged to challenge the controversial bill, which rights groups say gives the military too much power.

Mexico’s Senate has passed legislation that would transfer control of the country’s National Guard to the military, a controversial move that rights groups and opposition lawmakers say gives the armed forces too much power and could lead to abuse.

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The Senate’s 71-51 vote in favor of the bill on Friday comes after the lower house of Congress has already approved the measure. President Andres Manuel López Obrador is expected to sign it into law.

When the National Guard was created as part of a constitutional reform in 2019, it was placed under civilian control – but much of its training and recruitment has been done from within the country’s military.


López Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, allayed concerns over the increasing militarization of public security, saying that the Guard should now be under military command to prevent corruption.

But opposition parties have said they plan to file an appeal in court challenging the new law, which they argue violates constitutional guarantees on civilian control.

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“Public safety is not achieved by violating the Constitution, by violating the rule of law,” said Senator Claudia Anaya Mota of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The Mexican military has been criticized for its record of abuse and rights groups have warned that the removal of civilian control over the National Guard could result in similar violations.

“We have already seen the disastrous consequences of the militarization of public security forces in Mexico over the past 16 years,” Edith Olivares Ferreto, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, said in a statement Friday criticizing the Senate decision.

“We call on the Executive Branch to formulate a plan for the progressive withdrawal of the armed forces from the streets, prioritizing the development of public containment policies aimed at strengthening civilian police forces and guaranteeing public safety.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nasif also said that “the reforms effectively leave Mexico without a civilian police force at the federal level, and further strengthen the already dominant role of the armed forces in security in Mexico.” Huh”.

“Security forces must be subordinate to civilian authorities,” al-Nasif said in a statement.

But López Obrador hit out at critics, including the United Nations, on Friday.

“When did the United Nations take a stand?” He said during a regular news conference, questioning what the body has done to prevent war between Russia and Ukraine.

“These organizations that allegedly protect human rights, almost all these organizations are made up of people from different countries of the world…” he said.

Mexico has seen record levels of violence in recent years, and opposition members and activists have accused the National Guard of various counts of abuse.

The ranks of the National Guard, made up of over 110,000 members, are largely filled with members of the military and navy. Those officers retained their positions in the army and the guards were considered to be on loan.

Before coming to power in 2018, López Obrador vowed to send the army back to the barracks. But they have assigned him a variety of tasks, including fighting drug cartels, helping with various infrastructure projects, such as a new airport in the capital, and building bank branches in rural areas.

Late last month, a truth commission probing the 2014 disappearance of 43 students said that six students had been handed over to the army commander who had ordered to kill them. The shocking revelation directly linked the military to one of Mexico’s worst human rights scandals.

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