Mexican army on display during independence celebration

MEXICO CITY — Friday’s Mexican Independence Day parade took on an even more militarized air this year, coming just days after the relatively new National Guard was fully handed over to the army commander.

National Guard soldiers in gray camouflage were present in large numbers during the exhibition in central Mexico City. With the recent transfer of the guard force and the push for an extension that allows the Mexican military to maintain its police role through 2028, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has focused his homeland security strategy on the military. the country’s soldiers and marines.

Standing in front of thousands of troops Friday, López Obrador thanked the navy and army for their loyalty and affirmed that the National Guard will have a mission to “effectively ensure public safety and respect human rights.” permission”.

Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said in a statement that the armed forces “always act under the authority of civilian authorities”.

Sandoval seems to be pushing back against criticism at home and abroad that López Obrador has given too much power and responsibility to the military and abandoned the professionalization of the country’s civilian police.

The National Guard, established in 2019, was initially under the control of the Department of Safety and Citizen Protection. However, although ostensibly a civilian force, it is made up almost entirely of servicemen, retired military officers, and dependent on the military for logistics.

López Obrador has repeatedly said that he considers the military to be the least corrupt security organization and the only one to do so. His administration has struggled to reduce persistently high levels of violence, most of which involve the country’s powerful drug cartels.

Opposition politicians and civil society organizations have said they will go to court to challenge the transfer of control by the National Guard.

The debate is not new, and López Obrador has called opposition politicians hypocrites, because the last three parties to hold the presidency all rely heavily on the military for policing.

But López Obrador went further, putting the military in charge of a series of projects, among them creating a new airport for the capital, operating ports, building a cruise line on the Yucatan Peninsula, for example. fuel theft and handling logistics for much of the government’s COVID-19 response.

Edith Olivares, executive director of Amnesty International in Mexico, said those expanded responsibilities have strengthened the military relative to other civilian entities and plunged Mexico into “religionism” militarism”.

“We are changing the subordinate relationship of military power to civilian power and instead, military power has more and more presence, more resources, and more responsibility,” she said. than”.

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