By RICARDO CASTILLO
Even though it’s been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, and will surely be fast-tracked by the Mexican Senate, the integration of the National Guard (GN) remains a farfetched endeavor.
The approved bill provides for the GN to section off Mexico into 266 different commands. Initially, the National Guard will be made up of as many as 50,000 officers from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. However, the government’s intent is to finally have a civilian command, provided that the military can be civilianized.
At the Chamber of Deputies, there was little opposition to the bill. Whatever opposition there was came from members of the National Action Party (PAN), who claim that the GN is a move perpetrated by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to militarize the nation and rule with a dictatorial iron fist. Yet even PAN members agree that violence has gotten out of hand, particularly among organized criminal organizations, who besides killing each other to the tune of about 300,000 casualties over the past 18 years, are a threat to society, perpetrating a slew of thefts and kidnappings.
Notwithstanding, five parties approved the bill, including the majority National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party, the Social Encounter and Green political organizations, for a total of 362 votes.
The debate, as required, lasted nine hours. About the most heated theme during the discussion was regarding the approval of the Joint Junta of Chiefs of the National Guard to be integrated by officials from the armed forces, as well as public security civilians. Opposition, curiously, came from a group of female deputies led by the former campaign manager for President López Obrador, Tatiana Clouthier, who claimed that the integration of the Junta gave the military decisionmaking and commanding powers that are not in the Mexican Constitution. And this is certainly is not the path to demilitarize the nation. Clouthier’s objection was rejected and the entire bill was passed.
In response, the Morena leader at the Chamber of Deputies, Mario Delgado, thanked all those voting in favor, noting that extreme situations require extraordinary measures. In Mexico, he said, there is a murder every 20 minutes and doing nothing will only cost more lives.
PAN Deputy Jorge Romero warned that the constitutional reform represents “an incalculable threat” since it poses risks for the existing system of individual freedom because public security is being militarized. He also questioned the fact that the next president after AMLO “will inherit this enormous power,” as the new legislation concentrates all power in a single person.
But surprisingly, the most notorious vote in favor came from PRI deputies. Their leader, Rubén Moreira, said they were in favor because “the urgency to pacify the nation is not only a concern of the president, but of ours as well.”
There was some humor in the debate. Medical doctor and veterinarian Éctor Ramírez Barba of the PAN accused all those voting in favor to be to be doing so for a platypus, a mammal with features of different animals. He called deputies voting in favor “mammals,” which in Spanish slangs means suckers.
Now, the final draft of the bill that will officially create the National Guard is at the Senate, where discussions are slated to start on Monday, Jan. 21.
It must be pointed out that the GN will not interfere with municipal and state police activities, and will function more or less in the same way that the FBI does in the United States.
The urgency to make the bill a law is there, and, definitely, President AMLO is pressuring to get this new federal police operating ASAP.