Friday, April 12, 2019

Mexico's National Guard will have military commander (April 12, 2019)

Mexico's new National Guard force will be formed by 40,000 military and naval police who will not be subject to the same "trust controls" as their civilian counterparts, reports Animal Político. Though the law creating the new security force requires these tests -- which include polygraph and drug analysis -- Security Secretary Alfonzo Durazo said the equivalent controls carried out by the armed forces on their troops are sufficient.

This week the government sent bills regulating the National Guard to the Senate. They permit active military troops to transfer to the new force with arms, munition, equipment, and maintaining pay and military rank. 

Yesterday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tapped General Luis Rodríguez Bucio to head the new force, along with several retired military officials. (See yesterday's briefs.) Another general and a retired navy admiral will form the National Guard's operational coordinating body along with a federal police commissioner. Bucio will take command immediately, and is in the process of retiring from the army. (Associated Press)

Military dominance in the new force is contrary to the compromises reached by lawmakers last month when they approved the project specifying civilian command over the force, according to El País. Having active military commanders creates parallel chains of command -- though the officers are supposed to answer to Durazo, they will also be answering to army superiors, Alejandro Hope explained to the AP. Animal Político analyzes the legal ins and outs in depth.

Bucio's defenders note his "unconventional" military trajectory, which includes training in Germany and a role advising the OAS. The government also noted that Bucio's retirement will be effective in August, when the National Guard is expected to to become fully active. (BBC)

Earlier this week Mexico signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist in the force’s training. (Associated Press and El País)

The new regulations also contemplate severe sanctions for disciplinary failures and acts of corruption, an attempt to avoid abuses by existing security forces, reports Animal Político.

News Briefs

More from Mexico
  • Mexico's chamber of deputies passed a landmark labor reform bill yesterday that would empower workers unions and clear obstacles to ratifying the renegotiated Nafta treaty with the U.S. and Canada. The overhaul, which now goes to the senate, is meant to comply with labor requirements laid out in last year's U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, reports the Wall Street Journal. The reform gives workers direct power to choose labor leaders, and eliminates government discretion in registering unions, reports Animal Político.
  • The Mexican government has freed six activists who fought to protect the Tlanixco community’s water supply. Officials acknowledged that their rights were “seriously violated” during more than a dozen years in jail. The government is reviewing 538 cases in which people, mostly activists, may have been unfairly imprisoned, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is starting to dismantle the previous government's landmark energy privatization, reports the New York Times. Though he's not changing energy laws, he is shutting the door to private investment and naming loyalists to regulator positions and the Pemex board. 
  • AMLO lashed out against Reforma newspaper, asking it to reveal the source that leaked a letter the president wrote to the Spanish government. (AFP)
  • The letter demanded a formal apology for the rights violations carried out by Spanish conquistadores in Mexico -- a reminder of the pertinence of historical debates, writes Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • A second U.S. federal judge blocked President Donald Trump's move to terminate a temporary protection program for Haitian migrants. A new nationwide injunction blocks the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from forcing tens of thousands of Haitians to return to Haiti by ending their temporary legal protection and accuses the administration of political motivation in seeking to end their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), reports the Miami Herald.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it has reached agreement with the Venezuelan government to expand aid operations, supporting hospitals and health centers in providing vital medical care, reports Reuters. (See Wednesday's post.) The Red Cross will triple aid, increasing its budget to $24 million, in the face of mounting calls for the UN to recognize the scale of Venezuela's humanitarian crisis, reports the Guardian, citing last week's Human Rights Watch report on the issue.
  • Venezuela has positioned 17 military bases along its border with Colombia -- but InSight Crime questions whether Nicolás Maduro's governmetn will fight Colombian paramilitary group incursions 
Regional Relations
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a three-day visit to Chile, Paraguay and Peru today. He started off by defending sanctions against Venezuela, saying citizens affected by shortages would understand that the U.S. is not responsible. He also said Maduro was controlled by Cuba and should form part of transition negotiations. (Reuters)
  • Relations with the U.S. -- and potential improvement of economic ties -- were a central factor in Ecuador's decision to rescind WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's asylum at the country's London embassy yesterday, report the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. It also reflects a growing rejection of the Assange asylum among Ecuadorean citizens, who viewed him as ungrateful. Ecuadorean officials also accused Assange and WikiLeaks of working with Russian hackers to undermine President Lenín Moreno's government. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Poor behavior inside the embassy, where Assange stayed for seven years, may have contributed to frayed relations with Ecuador, reports the Washington Post. Officials once accused Assange of smearing feces on the wall and failing to take care of his pet cat.
  • Ecuadorean officials detained a Swedish software developer with alleged ties to Assange yesterday. (Agencies)
  • Moreno's predecessor and mentor, former president Rafael Correa, qualified the arrest as a personal attack and betrayal, reports the BBC.
  • Mapuche indigenous communities accused Argentina and Chile of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. Representatives made the case before the International Criminal Court, and asked it to take action against the countries' governments, reports the Guardian.
  • A Brazilian comedian known for aggressive attacks on leftist politicians, was sentenced to six months in jail for a 2017 clip targeting Rio Grande do Sul congresswoman Maria do Rosário. In the video he ripped up a notice he had been sent by the Brazilian congress asking him to remove offensive tweets about do Rosário, stuffed it into his underpants and directed obscenities at her, reports the Guardian. This is the same woman President Jair Bolsonaro famously said did not "deserve" to be raped. Bolsonaro was criticized this week for expressing solidarity with the comedian. But some critics voiced concern about the precedent in terms of freedom of expression.
  • A storm flooded parts of Rio de Janeiro this week, killing at ten people around the city. The trail of destruction raised questions about the city's ability to deal with recurring extreme weather, reports the Associated Press.
  • In the paramilitary group controlled Favela do Rola, the water freed alligators that were seen swimming through the neighborhood. But authorities declined to pursue them, reportedly citing insecurity, according to the New York Times.
  • The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce will honor Bolsonaro at a black-tie gala at New York's Museum of Natural History. It's ironic, notes the Gothamist, "that a man intent on destroying one of the world's most prized natural resources would be anointed Person of the Year inside a space dedicated to the celebration of the natural world." The museum was unaware of the guest of honor when the event was booked, and is "considering its options," reports AFP.
  • Bolsonaro announced an expansion of the PT-era Bolsa Familia program - backtracking on a campaign promise. (AFP)
  • The New York Times Magazine reports on how Peruvian activists are suing a German energy company over climate change.
  • Bolivian producers of "royal" quinoa seek to register the grain's denomination of origin registered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). (EFE)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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