The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is exploring plans to bypass the country’s congress and hand formal control of the National Guard to the army, reports the Associated Press. If the president follows through with the plan, the move could increase the military’s control over Mexico’s policing.
According to the AP, López Obrador previously pledged that the army would be off the streets by 2024. Instead, López Obrador has used military forces like the National Guard as the primary means of controlling crime. “Their mandate has to be prolonged,” he said. “I think the best thing is for the National Guard to be a branch of the Defense Department to give it stability over time and prevent it from being corrupted.”
The police force in Mexico has endured poor pay and threats made from cartels, but it has also been accused of widespread corruption. Experts maintain that without a dramatic reform of its civilian police, Mexico will continue to be a haven for both violent criminal activity and governmental human rights violations.
“The problem with using the military in civilian roles is that we don’t have any control of what goes on inside” the forces, Ana Lorena Delgadillo, director of the civic group Foundation For Justice, told the AP.
This news comes as violent crime in Mexico is on the rise. Last week, hundreds of Mexican troops were sent to the border city of Ciudad Juárez after a series of gang attacks left at least 11 dead. In Tijuana, state officials said that assailants hijacked and burned at least two dozen vehicles and set up roadblocks.
The Los Angeles Times reports that even many Mexicans accustomed to the country’s “rampant lawlessness” have been stunned by the current state of affairs. “There’s no government here: Here the narcos are the government,” said Rogelio Cornejo Díaz, 54, who runs a fruit and vegetable stand in Celaya.
Last week, the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana advised all American government employees to shelter in place due to the escalating violence.
“The authorities are not able to establish order, and they’re not able to hold people to account,” said David Shirk, a University of San Diego professor who follows organized crime in Mexico.