Mexico’s president vowed Wednesday to try again to give control of the National Guard to the Army, despite a Supreme Court ruling against such a move.
The Supreme Court had ruled Tuesday that the Constitution mandates that the Guard, which is now Mexico’s main federal law enforcement agency, must be kept under civilian control within the Public Safety Department.
But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he hopes his party can win a two-thirds majority in Congress in the June 2024 elections, and change the Constitution. For now, López Obrador said he would instruct the Public Safety Department — a civilian agency — to appoint a retired general to lead the quasi-military guard.
López Obrador says Army control of the National Guard is needed to prevent the force from becoming corrupt, as he claimed the now-dissolved Federal Police had become.
About 80% of the National Guard’s 130,000 members are active-duty soldiers on loan from the Army and Navy, where they preserve their ranks and benefits. Even civilian recruits are subjected to military training.
López Obrador said he will order Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez to visit the dozens of National Guard headquarters throughout Mexico to reassure the military members of the force that they will keep their military benefits and ranks.
López Obrador also lashed out at the eight of 11 Supreme Court justice who voted against his plan, saying they had “acted as part of a faction, not on judicial criteria but on political ones.”
The president’s supporters say Mexico has to use military personnel in civilian law enforcement because Mexico’s drug cartels are so powerful and well armed.
But the military has been implicated in a series of human rights abuses that are beginning to taint the National Guard.
In the norther border city of Nuevo Laredo, National Guard members opened fire on a civilian SUV over the weekend, killing a pregnant 15-year-old girlfriend and a 54-year-old man and wounding two other people. The National Guard has not responded to requests for comment on the deaths.
The killings come nearly two months after an army patrol shot to death five men in cartel-dominated Nuevo Laredo on Feb. 26. Four soldiers have been charged in that case.
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that last year’s transfer of the National Guard from civilian to military control was unconstitutional because López Obrador created it as a civilian force in a 2019 Constitutional reform and placed it under the control of the civilian public security ministry.
Last year, López Obrador decided to change that, but his ruling party and allies no longer had the necessary majority in Congress to pass constitutional changes.