By RICARDO CASTILLO
Just last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) extended the presence of soldiers on the streets of the nation to support the efforts of municipal and state police, along with the now-one-year-old National Guard (GN) in the fight against crime.
The move was seen by AMLO’s critics in the conservative press as “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”
Unfortunately for those critics, nobody has filed a suit against the ordinance, so the executive order for five more years of military presence stands.
This decision comes in tandem with the publication by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa of a 500-page-plus book called “Difficult Decisions.” in which he tells an array of anecdotes of the days when he was pushed into sending Mexican troops out of the barracks and onto the streets, declaring “war” on the explosion of the number of criminal organizations nationwide.
Calderón was warned by then-outgoing President Vicente Fox not to “mess with the drug traffickers,” a problem Fox left behind as a dubious legacy to Calderón.
Calderón ignored Fox and did mess with them, bringing about a period of more than 12 years of drug wars during the following administrations of President Enrique Peña Nieto and AMLO, who has had to cope with the consequences of Peña Nieto just preserving the status quo, which is why AMLO created the National Guard.
It must be pointed out that now Calderón is trying to help his wife create a new political party called México Libre (literally, Freedom in Mexico).
The National Electoral Institute (INE) is currently discussing whether to award green light and budget for this party to operate under the command of Calderón’s wife, Margarita Zavala.
But in the eyes of many, Calderón is using his wife as a front to regain political power in Mexico.
Calderón’s book and the five-year extension for the Army and Navy to continue backing up security in the nation come in tandem for the obvious reasons that the drug cartels are at each other’s throats, brutally slaughtering one other and giving the nation a bad name abroad.
Another complaint against AMLO for the extension by the conservatives is the most valid one.
For the most part, AMLO did not lie during his electoral campaign about what he would do if elected.
He is doing exactly what he promised he would. And that’s what the majority of Mexicans elected him to do.
But there’s one exception: AMLO also promised he would send the armed forces (Army and Navy) back into the barracks.
Obviously, the contrary is the case, making an armed military presence now permanent in the nation.
And that’s where things stand at the moment.
But how did we get here?
There’s definitely a sequence of events that led to the monstrous violence the cartels are currently engaged in.
And let’s face it, this war is an intramurals activity among different gangs, who for the most part stay away from attacking the armed forces and even in affecting civilian society.
Here’s a brief sequence of events leading up to the current situation:
During the Fox administration (2000-2006), security in Mexico was a serious problem, with the United States (as usual) pressuring the Mexican government to do something about the billions of dollars in drugs moving the border.
Fox created a sort of a Mexican FBI, called the Federal Investigations Agency (AFI). which rapidly became a white elephant with humongous and atomic bomb proofed facilities at Sotelo Hills (near Mexico City’s upscale Lomas de Chapultepec).
The AFI was commandeered by none other than Genaro García Luna, and did little or nothing to combat federal criminal activities.
Toward the end of the Fox administration, the still-existant Public Security Secretariat was created, and García Luna became its director.
García Luna, currently jailed in a U.S. federal detention center in Brooklyn awaiting trial on corruption and bribery charges, became a favorite for Calderón and a stalwart soldier in his so-called War Against Drugs campaign.
This move also provoked a war between rival drug gangs who allegedly filled García Luna’s bank accounts with millions of dollars.
Today, Calderón (2006-2012), with his top cop in the slammer, denies any knowledge of García Luna’s illegal activities.
But Calderón’s problem is that most Mexicans believe he is not innocent, even though he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
But his henchman is on trial, and that’s bad news for the former president.
Peña Nieto (2012-2018) wiped out the Security Secretariat and assigned surveillance activities to the Interior Secretariat (SeGob), which was then headed by now-Senator Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong.
During his five years as interior secretary, Osorio Chong devoted more time to promoting himself to become the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate for president than to his job at hand.
Consequently, the police corporation he managed, the Preventive Federal Police (devoted to preventing crime), was penetrated to the core by organized criminal organizations.
AMLO ran on an anticorruption platform, with the promise to “sweep out corruption the way a stairway should be swept, from the top down.”
AMLO revived the carcass of the Security Secretariat (now known as the Security and Citizens’ Protection Secretariat, of SSPC), under which aegis he eliminated the Preventive Federal Police, and created the National Guard, which absorbed some former federal cops, many of whom did not want to rejoin.
He gave now-Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo unlimited power to run the SSPC as well as the National Guard, the brainchild of Durazo, who closely with Fox, for whom he was both private secretary and official spokesman.
It’s clear now that AMLO miscalculated how soon the National Guard could have an effective result in curbing crime in Mexico.
The case a year later is that as a new decentralized police organization, with local municipal and state roots in 266 garrisons nationwide is just about beginning to get settled.
Since the National Guard is made up of mostly former military personnel, many of them are still relearning that the NG is a security force, not an army, and in dealing with civilian criminals their interdiction has to be in agreement with federal, state and municipal laws. Learning that takes time, and they are doing that.
Also, they are still building the barracks out of which they will eventually operate, and that too takes time.
Hence the five-year Army and Navy extension of the stay of military forces on the streets.
Some like it, some not, but that’s the way it’ll be until 2024, when AMLO believes that the National Guard will have matured and both Army and Navy personnel can return to where they belong, the barracks.
…May 19, 2020