Mexican president: Active-duty military officer will lead new National Guard

The Secretary of National Defense (Sedena) of Mexico, Luis Crecencio Sandoval (R) with the president of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (L), at a morning press conference April 5, 2019, in Guadalajara, Jalisco state Mexico. EPA- EFE/Francisco Guasco

MEXICO CITY.– Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday that the National Guard will be headed by an active-duty military officer and he did not rule out including retired military men among its top leadership.

«Next week, we will announce the members of the general staff and the National Guard. It will be an active-duty soldier,» said the leader of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) at his morning press conference.

At the press conference, held on Friday in Guadalajara, the president said that the leader of the National Guard will be a member of the army because they have «rectitude, honesty and professionalism.»

However, he did not dismiss the idea of allowing retired military men to join the National Guard, which will require at least 50,000 personnel.

Lopez Obrador had agreed with the opposition that the Guard would be directed by civilians, but the announcement of putting a military officer in charge has changed the situation.

The president said that the army and the navy will now be able to focus on their constitutionally designated tasks and duties.

He said he will explain the reasons Mexico needs help with public security to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who will be in Mexico until Tuesday.

«I want to clarify that the president of Mexico is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and I am never going to order the army to repress the people of Mexico,» said Lopez Obrador.

Regarding the wave of violence in the country, which registered 33,369 murders in 2018, Lopez Obrador said, «We are moving forward. We still have problems in some states, but I’m sure we can calm the country down.»

The National Guard will be tasked with reducing the country’s soaring crime rate.

Launching the project to create the new force sparked controversy when Lopez Obrador said he wanted military leadership for the Guard. a possibility that was criticized by the opposition and by human rights groups.

After an agreement among all political parties, the president promised that the National Guard would be run by civilians and soldiers would only participate in the force for five years.

The head of the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena), Luis Cresencio, said that the state security plan has reduced the crime rate in Guadalajara by 27 percent.

Jalisco state Gov. Enrique Alfaro said that although a lack of security persists in his state, the situation is better now than it was, indicating that authorities are on the right path.

When questioned about the unusual car-bomb explosion Wednesday in the southern state of Guerrero, he blamed the event on «a criminal organization in the region and nothing more.»

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