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Mexican president endorses lawmakers’ changes to National Guard

President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaks during his morning press conference Feb. 22,2019, at the National Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico. EPA-EFE/Sáahenka Gutierrez

President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaks during his morning press conference Feb. 22,2019, at the National Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico. EPA-EFE/Sáahenka Gutierrez

EFE

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hailed on Friday the Mexican Senate’s unanimous approval of a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing the establishment of a National Guard under civilian command.

“We are very pleased with the approval of the creation of a National Guard,” he said during his daily morning press conference.

All 127 senators voted “yes” Thursday on the amendment, which will now go to the lower house for ratification.

But the text approved by the Senate differed from Lopez Obrador’s original proposal for the new security corps, which envisioned a force comprising federal police, soldiers and marines under the operational command of the armed forces.

That idea was criticized as a perpetuation of the militarization of the country that began in 2006 under then-President Felipe Calderon , who gave the armed forces the leading role in battling organized crime, a strategy accompanied by an explosion of violence that claimed 200,000 lives.

Taking that criticism into account, the Senate modified the bill to mandate that civilian police will have operational command of the National Guard and to put a time limit of five years on the inclusion of military personnel.

In addition, the president must submit an annual report to the Senate about public-safety and law-enforcement activities carried out by the armed forces.

Despite the changes to his proposal, Lopez Obrador praised the action of the Senate.

“It was unanimous support. Something very rarely seen. Above all, in this new stage of changes and transformations, of authentic separation of powers and democracy,” the leftist president said.

Lopez Obrador said he hope that the lower house of Congress would approve the National Guard on the “same terms” as the Senate.

The reform provides “a legal framework that allow us to have this National Guard with the support of the armed forces,” he said, putting an end to the “irregular” situation arising from years of using the military for law enforcement without any constitutional basis.

Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, enacted a controversial Internal Security Law that formalized the army’s responsibility for public safety, but the legislation was overturned by the Supreme Court.


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