National Guard: Facing Mexican reality

When you talk about the biggest challenges that Mexico is facing, two social phenomena come to your mind immediately: insecurity and corruption. 

Security and corruption have been considered as priorities in the national agenda for the last 20 years, at least in the political narrative. Nevertheless, even when the former presidents have implemented policy “strategies” to improve security, the levels of violence in the country have been increasing year after year showing that the government has not been able to reduce significantly violence and crime in Mexico. 

Fuente: Índice de Paz 2018

The causes are multifactorial, for example: drug trafficking cartels and organized crime activities in general terms, poverty, low education levels, low salaries, low human development levels in several communities among the country, corruption practices, absence of the rule of law, human rights violations and political submission to crime leaders.

In this scenario, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) proposed to change the strategy to reduce violence and crime levels attending to what he believes that is the main original cause: poverty. Also, and for the first time in the last 20 years, his strategy included to guarantee not only public security but also citizen security

Due to the corruption practices in some of the security institutions and the low levels of citizens’ trust in government, AMLO’s security strategy has as one of its main axes in the National Guard’s (NG) creation. 

The National Guard is “a hybrid institution that combines military discipline and organization and a civil command” (Nación 321, 2019). According to the law, at the begining of its operations, the National Guard should be integrated with members of the Army Police, Navy Police and Federal Police. This situation was severely criticized for national and international organizations and NGO’s because of the military presence in public and internal security matters. Even though there were some oppositors, the constitutional reform creating the National Guard was passed unanimously at Federal Congress and after it was approved for all local congresses in Mexico.

However, some members of the Federal Police protested for joining the National Guard during this week. Why? Because they believed that their laboral rights have been violated since they were considered as NG members. According to Animal Político the policemen declared that they have not uniforms, less social benefits and bad working conditions. The police officers also said that during their operations they sleep on the floor and that sometimes they do not have minimum hygiene conditions.  

According to the Washington Postthe demonstrations also revealed a vast difference in culture between the federal police and military. When federal police officers are deployed, they are typically put up in hotels. When the military operates outside its bases, soldiers sleep wherever available and receive little compensation to cover their meals”.  After the demonstrations, the public opinion criticized the National Guard’s operation conditions and rejected the President’s opinion about corruption levels in Federal Police. Nevertheless it is worthy to ask, are the media forgetting how deep corruption penetrated in Police institutions? Are media forgetting why people was so mad in 2018? 

Security will not improve without cooperation between all security institutions.  Even when National Guard’s structure could be severely criticized and when it is not right to have a romantic perspective about the bad working conditions in which Mexican armed forces operate, the true is that violence, crime and corruption still affecting thousands of Mexicans. 

We should consider international experience in rebuilding security institutions. The case of Georgia could be a reference because, according to the Centre for Public Impact (CPI), “Georgia had been known for its levels of corruption, especially in its police force”.In July 2004, the government abolished the whole police force by firing “around 30,000 police officers to create a new corruption-free force. Around 85 percent of the police, approximately 15,000 policeman within a day, were fired and the hiring of new staff began.” In Georgia, after implement strategies with clear objectives and improving political commitment and stakeholder engagement “the reformed police force became one of the most well-regarded institutions in the country” (CPI, 2016). 

Since, the situation in Mexico seems to be similar to the Georgia’s experience; the Mexican government must keep in mind that if it wants to be succesful and make a noticable change it is necessary to mantain the cream of the crop of the federal police corps (even when that implies to reject those who do not fullfil the profiles).

It is important to remark that the current internal political fights among Mexican security institutions is a criticial situation. In Mexico, the gap between law and public policy implementation on security matters is full of personal interests, corruption, lack of knowledge and authority abuse.  Finally, it is urgently needed to have foresight, reach agreements and achieve political commitment at the highest government levels. Discipline, civility and knowledge of the law from all the actors are key  conditions for building or re-building security institutions.  

References: 

Animal Político. (2019). Falta de uniformes, malas condiciones y baja de prestaciones, las causas de la protesta de policías federales. 

Center of Public Impact. (2016). Seizing the moment: rebuilding Georgia’s police.

FBI. (2014). Perspective, Characteristics of and ideal Police Officer.

IMCO. (2018). Índice de Paz México 2018

Nación 321. (2019). 5 datos para que entiendas de una vez por todas el tema de la Guardia Nacional. 

The Washington Post. (2019). Mexican Police revolt against plans to join National Guard. 

By Alejandra. FM Thought

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