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The National Guard is approved by the Chamber of Deputies

According to the proposal, the head of the force will be a civilian, but operational chiefs will be military officers

The National Guard is approved by the Chamber of Deputies
The National Guard will take over public security - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 17/01/2019 15:52 Reuters Mexico City Lizbeth Diaz, David Alire Garcia Actualizada 15:52
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On Wednesday, Mexican lawmakers voted to approve the creation of a new 60,000-member National Guard, a proposal embraced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a crucial tool in the fight against organized crime.

The proposal was approved by about three-quarters of the lower house of Congress, with 362 votes in favor and 119 against, with changes to Mexico’s constitution requiring a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

López Obrador’s Morena party teamed up with smaller leftist allies and lawmakers from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, to approve the new National Guard which would replace the armed forces in the fight against crime, including drug cartels.

Critics of the new guard fear it could further militarize crime fighting and lead to human rights abuses. Even some reluctant backers of the bill called for changes that would place limits on the force and eliminate protections against prosecutions if members commit crimes against civilians.

In a first phase, the guard will be composed by 60,000 members transferred from existing military and federal police forces.

According to the proposal, the head of the force will be a civilian, but operational chiefs will be military officers.

The proposal still has to be approved by the Senate, and then a simple majority of state legislatures, but both are seen as likely because of the political strength of Morena and its allies across Mexico.

The former administration, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, created a gendarmerie to oversee the fight against organized crime, but it was later heavily scaled back.

Over a decade ago, former President Felipe Calderón sent the armed forces to fight drug cartels, but while the policy succeeded in killing or capturing cartel leaders, the criminal groups splintered and gang violence has since claimed more than 170,000 lives.

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