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Three months after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) handed over the administration of the Reynosa and Matamoros customs to the military, corruption has worsened with the complicity of the National Guard (GN), key private-sector representatives in Tamaulipas said Friday, June 11.

“The military turned out to be a bad or worse than the people who were running customs beforehand. There hasn’t any change for the better,” said Julio Almanza Armas, president of the Tamaulipas Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fecanaco).

“The federal government handed over control of our ports and customs to the Navy Secretariat (Semar) and there has been no accountability since. It is high time for Semar to meet with Tamaulipas civil society and render a report.”

Almanza Armas went on to say that Horacio Duarte Olivares, head of Mexico’s General Administration of Customs (AGA), has a legal and ethical responsibility to show what his military team has or has not accomplished since taking over the ports.

Based on reports from the Fecanaco, he said, in the last three months, huachicol (fuel-smuggling, one of the main reasons AMLO said he wanted the military to oversee customs) continues at the borders “unchecked,” and there has actually been an increase in the number of complaints of alleged extortion levied against customs officials.

The Fecanaco official specifically identified two AGA officials — Saúl Hernández and Juan Paulo Ramos Bañuelos — as having been repeatedly accused of “facilitating trafficking and extortion networks.” He said that legal charges are now pending against them.

Marco Antonio Mariño Leal, Fecanaco’s vice president for security, added that evidence shows that both officials have been operating in “direct collusion” with members of the GN, a military force created by AMLO to theoretically rid the country of crime that has, among other functions, the charge of the surveillance of Mexico’s international ports of entry.

On March 1, the head of the AGA announced that Lieutenant Colonels Pablo Muñoz Ramírez and Bernardo Añorve Lazo were the new administrators of the Reynosa and Matamoros customs, respectively.

The appointments were made as part of AMLO’s plan to hand over customs to the Army and ports to the Navy to supposedly combat corruption.

However, Mariño Leal said that criminal networks continue “to operate daily, constantly and with impunity in customs, without registering any change due to the arrival of the military.”

“If anything,” he said, “the problem is just getting worse.”


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