By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Based on an article published over the weekend in El Universal newspaper, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) intends to incorporate his 160,000-member-strong National Guard (GN) into the country’s National Defense Secretariat (Sedena).
According to the El Universal report, in a recent meeting with “a small group of Mexican businessmen,” AMLO let it slip that he still has three main reforms for the Mexican Constitution on his agenda.
And topping that list of reforms, the president allegedly said, was “having the National Guard become part of the Secretariat of National Defense.”
This concept goes against what AMLO said was the original purpose in his creation of the NG, that is, to be a separate body that would serve as a non-military means of law enforcement and which would eventually transition into being a fully civil entity.
True, at one point when AMLO was first presenting his initiate to establish the NG, he stated that it would be “administratively located in the Sedena.”
But by January 2019, one month after taking office, the president, under a barrage of criticism, did an about-face and declared that the NG would report directly to the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection (SSPC).
Now he is throwing that mirage out the window as he blatantly reveals his true intentions for the NG.
This all goes to reiterate AMLO’s covert plan to create a military that responds directly — and only — to him, a military that oversees every aspect of public and private activity in the country, and that can guarantee that no matter how much the Mexican people may decide to question his autocratic power, he will always get his way (and “always,” in this case, implies an extended term in office beyond his constitutionally specified six years).
The National Guard — which already has been given at least 27 responsibilities previously reserved for the private sector — is already, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Armed Forces within a civilian dependency.
As El Universal’s Alejandro Hope astutely points out in his Sunday, June 13, column: “This fiction is functional within (Mexico’s) current political context. It is currently possible to presume the existence of a corporation of tens of thousands of members, without it having to bother with the hassle of recruiting or training. But that arrangement is fragile. In a new political environment, the military high command could be forced to choose between the Armed Forces and the GN.”
Hope notes that under current Mexican law, the National Guard must be “functionally separated from armed institutions.”
But, as Hope observes, the concept of what constitutes “functional separation” is blurry.
Hope says that the reality is that “functional separation” is nothing more than a play of semantics intended to keep Sedena’s budget and personnel at peak levels, while still controlling the NG.
“Moreover,” he writes, “the period in which the president can directly dispose of the armed forces for public security tasks expires in March 2024. It is very possible that, hand-in-hand with a possible reform of the GN mandate, there is a hidden attempt to extend that term.”
Hope says that “it is quite possible that the military high command wants to cement the current arrangement before the political balances change.”
And, of course, he says, “López Obrador is likely willing to spend political capital to preserve an alliance that he considers indispensable.”
The question then, is very simple: Indispensable for what? The security of the country, or his own insatiable thirst for power, and for how long?