MEXICO CITY – The Mexican government will not negotiate with organized crime groups under any circumstances, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.
“We are not going to negotiate with any gang or organization dedicated to committing crimes. We are going to act with rectitude and integrity. There are going to be no deals. The border between crime and authority is pretty clear,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.
The Mexican leader, popularly known as AMLO, also said that the National Guard, a new law enforcement agency with nearly 25,000 members, would begin operating in June.
AMLO said authorities would not “go after one gang to protect another, as was done” by prior administrations.
“We are going to resolve the serious problem of crime and violence. When there is no link between criminals and the authorities, progress is being made. When there is no impunity, when there is rectitude,” said Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1.
Lopez Obrador, the founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), said criminal organizations understood the new administration’s “characteristics.”
“We’re going to get the crime rate down, we’re going to do it quickly and without the need to negotiate” with organized crime groups, AMLO said.
Lopez Obrador said officials agreed on Wednesday to deploy 51 of the National Guard’s 266 units in mid-June.
Non-governmental organizations criticized the move to create the National Guard, which will have military personnel and law enforcement officers in its ranks.
The new law enforcement agency, whose creation required a constitutional amendment, has been the subject of controversy because opposition and human rights groups contend it will perpetuate the presence of soldiers in the streets.
Opponents of the National Guard argue that the armed forces were involved in numerous cases of human rights violations during the more than one decade in which they waged war on Mexico’s drug cartels.
The militarized war on drugs launched in December 2006 by then-President Felipe Calderon led to more than 200,000 deaths.
AMLO said that in addition to fighting crime directly using the National Guard, he also wanted to “address the causes” of criminal behavior, such as lack of job and educational opportunities for young people.
“Human beings are not bad by nature, they are a product of their circumstances,” AMLO said, adding that his administration’s social programs aimed to help young people and not “abandon” them to criminal organizations.
“I’m optimistic, we’re going to bring about peace and tranquility in the country,” the president said.
AMLO said he wanted to thank citizens for helping to end the violence in Mexico, adding that “together, we’re going to make history.”
Mexico got off to the bloodiest start to a year ever, with a total of 8,493 murders registered in the first quarter of 2019, the highest number of killings since 1997, when the government started keeping murder statistics.
Last year, 33,369 murders were recorded in Mexico, making it the most violent year since 1997.