The General’s Generals

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is attempting to introduce a constitutional amendment to extend the military’s control over policing, a move that many critics called a slide toward authoritarianism, the Associated Press reported.

López Obrador proposed plans to make the quasi-military National Guard a part of the Defense Department “to give it stability over time and prevent it from being corrupted.”

Formed in 2019, the National Guard, along with the army,  has been performing policing duties in Mexico, where violence and insecurity have remained high despite years-long efforts by the military to curb crime.

The president had initially pledged the force would be under nominal civilian control and that the army would be off the streets by 2024. But his recent proposal would completely remove civilian control over the National Guard.

And because López Obrador lacks the votes in congress to alter the constitution, he is searching for legal workarounds – such as executive orders – to push for the changes.

The proposed plans mark a shift for the populist leader, who had called for removing the army from the streets before his election in 2018. Since then, he has come to heavily rely on the military for certain tasks, including the building of major infrastructure projects, halting migration and overseeing customs at seaports.

The proposal, meanwhile, drew condemnation from civil society groups and human rights advocates, who said the military has done little to curb violence and crime since the start of the 2006 drug war.

The army and the National Guard have also been accused of numerous human rights violations: Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has received thousands of complaints alleging abuses, including excessive use of force and torture.

Ana Lorena Delgadillo of the Mexico-based Foundation For Justice warned that 15 years of experience with the military in policing roles has shown “the falseness of the paradigm that the army was going to solve the problems.”

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