Photo: Semar

PULSE NEWS MEXICO

In yet another step toward the full militarization of the country (the Army and National Guard are already overseeing more than 30 activities that were, just three years ago, considered the sole domain of civil authorities), Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced on Tuesday, June 7, that the country’s Navy (Semar) has now taken full control of the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris), Mexico’s answer to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During his daily morning press conference at the National Palace, AMLO noted that, as part of an ongoing “anti-corruption effort,” the Navy had already order the removal of 32 Cofepris officials, ranging from heads of administrative units to judges and sanitation verifiers

The president claimed that the move was part of a campaign to “clean up Cofepris,” and to put an end to illicit business, bribery, extortion and influence peddling.

But the decision by the president has been questioned by medical specialists and opposition leaders who fear that it is part of his plan to fast-track the approval of Cuban medications (including an anti-covid-19 vaccine that has yet to be green-lighted by the World Health Organization, and to implement government objectives at the cost of health safety standards.

Notwithstanding, Semar also now controls all medical permits issued by Cofepris.

Since taking office in December 2018, López Obrador has been moving steadily toward the militarization of the nation’s medical system, importing Cuban doctors and cancelling contracts with private pharmaceutical suppliers — including those that produce vital cancer treatment drugs for children — leading to a severe medicine shortage nationwide.

Birmex, the state-run drug distribution company, has been directed since December 2021 by Army General Jens Pedro Lohmann Iturburu.

As of now, the military is in charge of the entire medicine distribution strategy in the country, in coordination with the health sector and the participation of the Armed Forces in logistics tasks.

In November of last year, AMLO commissioned the military to distribute more than 54 million medications in state-run hospitals, but shortages persist and many public hospitals report that they are sorely strapped for both medicines and equipment.

Prior to that, the military also took control of the distribution of covid-19 vaccines, in addition to operating some of the hospitals where infected patients with severe symptoms were treated.

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