MEXICO CITY – All parties represented in the Mexican Senate announced on Thursday that they reached an agreement for the creation of a National Guard comprised of both military and police elements under civilian command.
“The National Guard, to be clear, will be of a civilian nature,” Ricardo Monreal, leader in the Senate of the leftist governing Morena party, said during a joint press conference with senators from the other parties.
The constitutional reform bill to create the guard, which is expected to be approved unanimously Thursday in the Senate and sent to the lower house for ratification, includes provisions mandating respect for human rights and for the sovereignty of Mexico’s 32 states.
Initially, the new security corps, promoted by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to combat violence and insecurity, was to integrate federal police, soldiers and marines under the operational command of the armed forces.
But that idea was quickly criticized as a perpetuation of the militarization of the country that began in 2006 with then-President Felipe Calderon, who gave the armed forces the leading role in battling organized crime.
The strategy was accompanied by an explosion of violence that claimed 200,000 lives during Calderon’s six-year term.
The agreement reached by senators establishes that civilian police will have operational command of the guard and puts 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.
During his daily press conference earlier Thursday, Lopez Obrador said he would be “respectful” of lawmakers’ decision, though he reiterated his support for soldiers and marines to be part of the National Guard in order to train the police.
“I do need the support of the army, because they have discipline and professionalism and they are 226,000 members, and it’s the institution with the most infrastructure in the country,” the president said.
“The National Guard in no way signifies militarization,” Monreal said, celebrating that all of the parties came together to reach an agreement that few thought was possible.
The representative of the conservative PAN party, Sen. Mauricio Kuri, said that with this agreement, “our families will be protected” and at the same time there will be “peace and respect for human rights.”
Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, of the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said it was “a very important day for democracy in Mexico” representing a victory for “the politics the talks, listens and knows how to build.”