By RICARDO CASTILLO
The past six months have been hectic for Mexico and its Congress as they worked to approve several constitutional amendments that will help ease the nation’s transition into what President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) calls the Fourth Transformation, now popularly mentioned as 4T.
Apparently – and this is an educated guess only – AMLO has plans to come up with a new constitution toward the end of his mandate in 2024. The three past “transformations” were the 1824 and the 1857 constitutions – radically different from each other – and the 1917 one – currently operating as a patched-up document. The 1917 Mexican Constitution was spurred by the 1910 Mexican Revolution, and unlike the previous two, was intended to be a constitution to turn Mexico into a democratic country.
Perhaps, the most meaningful consequence of the 4T up until now has been the consolidation and passage, both in the Chamber of Senators and the Chamber of Deputies, of the integration of the almost unanimously approved National Guard (GN, in Spanish for Guardia Nacional).
Drafting the GN bill was no piece of cake. It took AMLO’s two main legislative operators – Ricardo Monreal in the Chamber of Senators and Mario Delgado at the Chamber of Deputies — to get it passed. And managing to get an almost unanimous approval did not come easy. But in the end, both Monreal and Delgado managed to pull it off, earning A+ grades for themselves.
On Friday, May 24, AMLO announced that the GN will officially begin operations nationwide on June 30, although “it is already operating in some (high-crime) states.”
But for now, the bulk of the new police force is still in training. Since the large majority of its personnel stems out of the Army and Navy – all already trained professional soldiers – they are undergoing a period of “civilizing,” namely, making a transition from thinking like combat soldiers to thinking like law enforcement police officers.
In his speech on Friday, AMLO showed pride in Congress’ approval “of the four laws that make up the GN,” and, of course, thanked his personally crafted National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party for convincing the rest of the minority parties to join the GN bill approval vote.
But what are these “four laws” that give the new GN an operational framework? Here’s a brief explanation:
First, the bill turned into law defines the GN as a civil security service organization adjoined as a decentralized administrative service to the Citizens Security and Protection Secretariat – currently headed by a civilian, Alfonso Durazo – and states that it has to act as a professional police force.
Second, the Law on the Use of Force regulates all operations of the institutions made up both of public police and armed forces participating in this endeavor. It establishes protocols and norms for the use of nonlethal weaponry to control public meetings and to bring disorderly conducts under control. It bans any use of weapons in peaceful marches and forbids human rights violations by GN members.
Third, the new police force will have a National Register of Detentions, through which it will organize and amplify existing data banks to facilitate identification in finding persons of interest almost immediately after their arrest, be it either for a crime or an administrative misdemeanor. The registrar will be solely operated by the Citizens Security and Protection Secretariat. The registrar will be open to consultation by the general public.
Fourth, the General Law of the National System of Public Security modifies all previous regulations and basis for the formation of a professional police force that begins with the National Guard, based on a civilian doctrine. It also initiates a system of open information for public consultation through the phone number 911, which will be the only number available to denounce crimes and emergencies at a national level.
In previous a previous article (National Guard Bill Heads for the Senate), Pulse News Mexico outlined the fact that, in its de facto operational mode, the GN will have 266 different police sectors. each with its own operational facilities. Back then, Public Safety Secretary Alfonso Durazo outlined how Mexico’s existing Federal Police – now automatically absorbed into the GN – operated from from a central office in Mexico City with the impractical consequence that it was spread too thin at a national level, resulting in the explosive growth of criminal organizations across the country.
With the GN divided into 266 precincts, all members will be stationed locally, hence they will have a clearer view of what is happening within the communities they oversee. Of course, the GN will not have the municipal or state territorial limitations local police have. It is forecast that by the end of 2019. the GN will have over 80,000 trained men and women working for it.
But for now, the GN is already operating at a local level in the high crime states of Baja California (Tijuana, specifically), Quintana Roo (Cancun), Veracruz (Minatitlán) and Oaxaca City.
In case you’re wondering what led the current Mexican government to come up with a National Guard, the answer is that, since 2007, the Mexican Armed Forces (Army and Navy) have been placed on the streets to try and bring under control the proliferation of small and big organized criminal organizations. Since then, the Armed Forces have operated in accordance with their own military law, and in the end, thousands of citizens protested the presence of armed soldiers on the streets. These new set of four laws will now bring the GN under a juridical framework that, for now, almost everyone seems to be happy with. Almost?
Yes. For one, the regional representative for Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jan Jařab, has pointed out that the new laws don’t offer coverage for migrants and they do not cover National Migration Institute officers, who sometimes use force. Also, Jařab suggested in a letter to Chamber of Deputies President Porfirio Muñoz Ledo that the new law is full of loopholes, which could lead to the use of violence against detainees. He requested that continued revision of the laws be established by the Chamber of Deputies.
On a general basis this, however, is the content of the National Guard laws, now in effect. Will they work? Will they not? This is a matter that remains to be seen in practice. but the general consensus is that, by all means, it is a lot better than what preceded the now-new National Guard.