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LatinNews Daily - 10 January 2019

Mexican gov’t requests UN collaboration on national guard

Development: On 9 January Martha Delgado, the deputy minister for multilateral affairs and human rights at Mexico’s foreign ministry (SRE), said that the government had approached the United Nations (UN) for assistance in the training of the country’s proposed new national guard.

Significance: The creation of a national guard is part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s 2018-2024 ‘national peace and security plan’, but the proposed new security force has been the object of criticism from the political opposition, from NGOs, and from the UN itself. The involvement of the UN shows the government reacting to concerns as it attempts to reconcile López Obrador’s defence of human rights with the militarisation of public security.

  • Speaking at a meeting of ambassadors and consuls in Mexico City, Delgado said that the government had requested the collaboration of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to train the members of the new national guard on human rights issues. Delgado reportedly told the press that she had spoken personally with the OHCHR, which is headed by Chile's former president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010; 2014-2018), and hopes to reach an agreement on the exact form of the collaboration within a month.
  • The national guard, which would comprise members of the army, the navy, and the federal police (PF), has attracted criticism for representing further militarisation of public security. López Obrador, who is under pressure to reduce violence in Mexico and is counting on the creation of the new security force for this, emphasised last week that his government will guarantee peace without the use of violence, and that the national guard will not violate human rights.
  • López Obrador has come under fire for initiating recruitment to the national guard before its creation has been approved by congress (it requires a constitutional reform) and before holding a promised popular consultation on the matter, which is scheduled for 21 March. State governors from the opposition nonetheless backed the creation of the national guard during a public audience held in the chamber of deputies on 8 January, on the condition that it be under civilian command. 

Looking Ahead: While López Obrador seems determined to push forward with the creation of the national guard, the involvement of the UN and repeated criticisms may force him to re-evaluate some elements of the new security force’s structure and mandate.