MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government reiterated on Thursday that it will not modify the entry requirements for the newly created National Guard security force despite recent protests by Federal Police officers.
The head of the Security and Civilian Protection Secretariat, Alfonso Durazo, said the pressure it has received to make those changes was coming from opposition politicians.
He also called on disgruntled police officers who have “abandoned their posts” to turn in their weapons and vehicles.
“In this negotiation process, there’s absolutely no room for modifying the National Guard entry requirements,” he said at a press conference.
Hundreds of Federal Police officers held road-blocking protests Wednesday in and around this capital against their incorporation into the National Guard – a new security force created by leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration to fight crime and seal the country’s southern border – and said they may go on strike.
In response, Durazo and Lopez Obrador defended the creation of that force – and the elimination of the Federal Police within 18 months – and provided assurances that all members of that latter law enforcement agency will be relocated to other government positions if they so desire.
Even so, a new round of protests took place on Thursday, though smaller in size than the day before, amid the specter of a possible nationwide strike.
In a bid to allay tensions, Durazo announced Thursday that a negotiating table has already been established and said public roads blockaded by protesters in Mexico City had been “partially” cleared.
He said the goal is to establish a respectful dialogue aimed at finding the “best possible solutions” that respect police officers’ labor situation and personal dignity.
The official reiterated, however, that no changes will be made to the entry requirements for potential new members of the National Guard, which is made up of Federal Police officers, army soldiers and marines.
Among other things, National Guard members must be between the ages of 18 and 30, be in good physical and mental health and have no large or visible tattoos.
Durazo acknowledged that the rollout of the National Guard, officially presented on Sunday, had been marred by poor “internal communication” but said no Federal Police officers would be fired if they choose not to enter the new force.
He added that they instead would be placed with different government agencies such as the National Institute of Migration (Inami) or the customs authority, while those that enter the National Guard will not suffer cuts to their salaries or benefits.
But despite announcing a willingness for dialogue, Durazno harshly criticized the protesting Federal Police officers and said “systematic critics” of the government were looking to take advantage of poor institutional communication.
He also slammed the media’s coverage of the protests, saying they had offered a “incorrect perception” of the situation.
In addition, Durazo had harsh words for conservative former President Felipe Calderon, who in recent days has criticized the Lopez Obrador administration’s treatment of Federal Police officers.
“The activism of some politicians seeking to take advantage of this transition from the Federal Police to the National Guard is evident,” Durazo said.
The Federal Police is a force that has been “historically abandoned,” the security and civilian protection secretary said, recalling that its shortcomings led Calderon – in office from 2006 to 2012 – to rely on army soldiers and marines to lead a law-enforcement crackdown on violent drug gangs.