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Mexican lawmakers passed a bill this week that would transfer the control of the civilian-led National Guard to the military, a move that many critics warn will give the army too much power and lead to abuses, Al Jazeera reported.
The move comes nearly a month after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed plans to make the 110,000-member force part of the armed forces.
On Friday, the country’s upper house approved the bill after it was passed in the lower house of Congress. López Obrador is expected to sign it into law.
Formed in 2019, the National Guard was created under a constitutional reform package that placed it under civilian control. Its formation was part of the populist president’s pledge to take the army off the streets and increase security in Mexico, which has seen record levels of violence in recent years.
But both the military and the National Guard – largely filled with members of the army and marines – have come under intense scrutiny over alleged human rights abuses.
Following the vote, many human rights groups criticized the decision, saying that removing civilian control over the National Guard could lead to further violations. Opposition politicians said they will appeal the legislation in court.
The issue also prompted a reaction from the United Nations Human Rights Office, which cautioned that “the reforms effectively leave Mexico without a civilian police force at the federal level, and further consolidate the already prominent role of the armed forces in security in Mexico.”
López Obrador dismissed the accusations. He has previously defended increased militarization of public security, saying the National Guard must be under military command to prevent corruption.
His shifting stance is indicative of how the president has become increasingly reliant on the army for certain tasks, including fighting crime and building infrastructure projects.