The criminal traffic light, with which the government can evaluate the level of insecurity and violence affecting the country and define the critical destinations for the National Guard to act, reveals that criminal organizations control 70% of the nation.
Over 70% of Mexico has come to a standstill due to the high incidence of crimes associated with criminal organizations, reveals the criminal traffic light that the federal government has created to identify those areas where an intervention of the National Guard is urgent.
The assessment of public insecurity, that brought about the integration of the structure of ‘Military liaison officers and Federal Police for regional coordination units’, places a red light to 21 federal entities as a result of their high level of criminality. Such affected areas are Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Estado de México, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and Zacatecas.
The Security Cabinet of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador drew up a document identifying critical areas where an intervention of the National Guard is needed. This document also shows that in the criminal map the red color predominates, followed by yellow (around 20% of the territory) while the rest of the country is in green (less than 10%).
According to the analysis, the military operation of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador against the organized crime has started in 266 Regional and Territorial Coordination Units of the National Guard. One hundred fifty-three of them – located in the 22 most dangerous states – are red lights for the high index of crimes that they present, whereas 62 register a ‘medium’ index of crimes and 53 have a low-rate crime.
Experts in national security and scholars predict a failure of the National Guard, greater persecution of anti-Semite movements, increase in violence and murders, as well as a far-right takeover for the next six-year term.
In the areas where the National Guard will operate (each state has, on average, between 2 and six regional entities, except for Estado de México, Mexico City, Oaxaca and Michoacán presenting respectively 32, 16, 9 and nine entities), the federal government aims at extirpating the organized crime.
These are territories which are under the control of 300 criminal organizations. According to the aforesaid document, the members of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) are responsible for stamping out red lights in 126 regional entities and 216 regional coordination units; the Secretariat of the Navy in 18 entities and 34 coordination units, and the Federal Police in 6 entities and 16 coordination units, the latter belonging to the municipalities of Mexico City.
This is the answer of the government to the transnational criminal organizations that are threatening the legitimacy of the State, claims Rear Admiral Enrique Barney Montalvo in an interview. ‘Such organizations overstepped the barrier of terror and the organized delinquency, gained increasingly more power to face the State, became a de facto socio-political actors in enclaves and acquired impunity to carry out their activities.’
This way, he emphasizes, the corruption and impunity of some local governments fueled the institutional weakness. Indeed, those governments have intrinsically given up part of the state power to these organizations, so reaching levels of domination that undermine authority, mobilize employees and social groups, and hinder the State from protecting the whole society.
The strategy of López Obrador
The National Guard will count on a Joint Command, whose chief in charge and members will soon be appointed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, the National Guard will also rely on a military body made up of three senior Brigadier Generals, 69 Lieutenant Colonels, 62 Infantry Colonels, four Cavalry Colonels, one Artillery Colonel, and 29 senior military officers, all nominated by the Secretariat of National Defense. Moreover, the Armed Marine of Mexico will appoint 13 Rear Admirals, four Vice-Rear Admirals, eight Ship Captains, and two Frigate Captains.
In their capacity as ‘contacts’ of the military liaison officers of the Defense and Marine, one General Inspector, two Chief Inspectors, 13 Inspectors, 11 Deputy-Inspectors, 22 Officials, 47 Deputy-Officials, and 88 police officers complete the military top brass of the National Guard, according to the document.
In its first phase, the National Guard will deal with 153 red lights starting its operations with 38 thousand members of the Military Police, 20 thousand of the Federal Police and 8 thousand of the Naval Police, declares Javier Oliva Posada, Doctor in Political Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
According to the document, in Mexico City- where the cartels of Jalisco Nueva Generación, Unión Tepito, and anti Unión Tepito operate – no military liaison officer in charge of the Federal Police has been appointed yet. Only the municipality of Azcapotzcalco appears as a red light for its high crime rate.
In the abovementioned municipality, the cartel of Jalisco Nueva Generación is present. They released a message saying that they arrived to clean out the area from other criminal groups.
For the new crusade against crime, this year the government of López Obrador will gradually count on 80,000 members of the military, federal and naval police, and a budget of 20 billion Mexican pesos, stated the secretary of Security and Citizen Protection, Alfonso Durazo Montaño.
During President López Obrador’s morning conference meeting – celebrated in Mexicali last March 26 – Durazno affirmed that in the first phase the National Guard would operate in 150 out of 266 regional coordination units, considered as red lights in the criminal geography of the country.
That same day, the official recognized that these 150 regional coordination units are operating with limitations due to lack of personnel. He, therefore, claimed that the National Guard would grant the necessary human resources to cope with the criminal issue in the rest of the regional coordination units throughout 2019.
‘Each of the units will have the adequate capacity to contain, delimit and avoid that a shift in the criminal activities occur within the areas’, highlighted the official. On the infrastructure, the secretary said that fields and facilities are already available to be employed by the National Guard throughout the different areas of the country.
However, Carlos Barrachina Lisón, coauthor of Atlas de Seguridad y defense de México (Atlas on security and defense of Mexico) of the Security and Defense Centre (Caesede), declared in an interview that the military police are lacking personnel. Indeed, the most numerous group of the National Guard is made up of 38 thousand members. ‘The lack of facilities is a limitation when it comes to serving those areas; in the states where they are not operating it would be necessary to evaluate what is going on because each entity needs to have their facilities.’
He pinpointed that until December 2008, only six out of 12 bases of the Military Police were operative: Base 1, located in the Military Field Number 1 in Mexico City and its bordering areas comprising Estado de México, Morelos and the capital.
Base IV of the Military Police located in Apodaca – Nuevo Léon – with presence in Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí was also operative, as well as Base VI in Puebla, Base X in Cancun – Quintana Roo, Base XII in Guanajuato, in Querétaro and Michoacán, and Base XI in Torreón – Coahuila – Chihuahua, and Durango.
Whereas Base II located in La Paz in the region of Baja California and Base III in El Zaus, Culiacán, Sinaloa with its area of influence in Baja California Sur and respectively in Sonora and Durango are not completed yet, claims Barrachina Lisón.
The three Bases of the Military Police –VII, VIII, and IX – located in Chiapas and with presence in Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Acapulco (Guerrero), are not operative yet. Hence, it is assumed that they will be activated as part of the National Guard’s project, says the scholar of the Anáhuac University.
According to Tomás Miklos Ilkovics, Doctor in Sciences at the UNAM and expert in perspective planning and national security, the nation is changing ‘not only its government but also its regimen.’ Moreover, he alleges that the National Guard represents a change strategy that- if well managed – may solve public insecurity, stop criminal groups, and corrupted officials.
The scholar considers citizen security as a necessary condition to reach a welfare state. He also alleges that López Obrador learned to listen to Mexican citizens and explained ‘the reason why the National Guard is useful, even though some collaborators of him cannot understand it.’
In perspective, Miklos says, the long-term priority to eliminate injustice requires a critical and constructive social commitment, ‘as a cry of anguish toward criminal groups.’
Armed Forces holding all the power
The document titled ‘Military liaison officers and the Federal Police for the regional coordination units’ (Enlaces militares y de la Policía Federal para las coordinaciones regionals) shows who are those responsible for the regional entities and coordination units, except for the municipalities of the capital.
For instance, Estado de México – with the presence of La Familia Michoacana and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels – registers 25 red lights that are being fought by the following lieutenants and colonels: Braulio Sánchez Martínez (Chalco), Kerndor Xala Jimémez (Chimalhuacán), Mariano Guadalupe Santiago (Atizapán de Zaragoza), Antonio Miranda Vergara (Coacalco), Felipe Rodríguez Quiroz (Cuautitlán), Carlos Márquez Hurtado (Cuautitlán Izcalli), and Alejandro Zárate Nava (Ecatepec).
In the state of Guerrero – where the cartels of Pacífico, Beltrán Leyva, Familia Michoacana and Caballeros Templarios operate – they identified 12 regional entities presenting a high incidence of crimes.
The responsible for the major coordination units in Guerrero are Navy Capitain Gerardo Rosas Azamar (Acapulco), Cavalry Colonels Fidencio Márquez Reyes (Ayutla de los Libres); Salvador Solórzano (Chilapa), Salvador López Ruiz (Chilpancingo), Filemón Campillo Castro (Iguala), and Francisco González Galindo (Zihuatanejo) – among others.
In Puebla, where the cartels of Los Zetas, Jalisco Nueva Generación, Beltrán Leyva, and la Familia Michoacana operate, and which presents 10 red lights, the following lieutenants and colonels were appointed as regional coordinators: Ariel Oxte Medina (Acatlán), Hugo Licea Medina (Ajalpan), Noé Saavedra Suárez (Tehuacán), Genaro Alba Minero (Chalchicolula), Raúl Olvera Domínguez (Tepeaca), and Víctor Leonardo Villanueva (Huauchinango).
In Chihuahua, with the presence of the cartels of Pacífico and Juárez, the following Infantry and Cavalry lieutenants and colonels are in charge of the coordination units: Pedro Morales Hermosillo (Chihuahua), Ángel Flores González (Cuauhtémoc), Felipe González Moreno (Juárez); Martín Tomás Martínez (Nuevo Casas Grandes), José López Madero (Delicias), and José Luis Hernández Morales (Parral).
In Baja California and Baja California Sur – characterized by the presence of the cartels of Pacífico, Arellano Félix and Jalisco Nueva Generación – Lieutenant Colonels Eduardo Villegas Velazco (Mexicali) and Reyes Hernández de la Cruz (Tecate) are in charge of the coordination units with high criminal incidence, as well as Infantry Colonel Ernesto Gutiérrez Tapia (Tijuana), Navy Captain José Ángel Marroquín Carrizales (Ensenada), Rear Admiral Jesús Celorio Nava (La Paz), and Rear Admiral Miguel Ángel Cobos Soto (Los Cabos).
Oaxaca registers seven red lights whose military liaison officers of the National Guard are Germán Bastida Flores (Ixtlán), Alejandro González Sánchez (Huajuapan de León), Octavio Díaz Avilés (Tlacolula), Hisael Padilla Antúnez (Miahuatlán), Rubén Jiménez Espinoza (Oaxaca), Gerardo Lara Calvillo (San Juan Bautista Tultepec), Alejandro Gutiérrez Alonso (San Pedro Mixtepec), and Alberto Medina Aranda (Pinotepa Nacional).
Moreover, the document shows that Brigadier Generals Julio César Moreno Mijangos and Jaime Contreras Chávez control the high crime rate regional coordination unit of Torreón in Coahuila and the low crime rate regional coordination unit of Huehuetan in Chiapas, respectively.
The National Guard’s alert System
The Handbook on regional coordination operations for peacebuilding (Manual de Operaciones de Coordinaciones Regionales para la Construcción de la Paz) shows that the National Guard will operate as an immediate response mechanism toward the organized crime, common crime and social unrest employing an internal alert system divided into four levels.
In the handbook, the section of level 1 alerts stands out. They are launched for ‘crimes of high federal and local or mediatic impact,’ meteorological phenomena and ‘socio-organizational phenomena that may lead to criminal acts (violent demonstrations, lynching, crowd clashes)”. They require an urgent response (in 30 minutes or 1 hour) from the three levels of government, because “they pose a high risk to security and sociopolitical stability.”
Level 2 alerts would operate in situations that could lead to a level 1 alert, such as federal and local delicts exposed in the media and citizen complaints regarding the potential commission of a crime.
Level 3 alerts require a medium-term response (between 24 hours and one week), for federal and local crimes, citizen demand for security issues, generalized disagreement of the population of a community with government actions, need for services as well as the presence of urban or rural infrastructures that hamper security.
Finally, level 4 alerts require a long-term response (from 1 to 4 weeks) for reiterated administrative errors that put security at risk, citizen demand for services and ‘social conditions of inequality that may be considered to be factors encouraging crime.’
The National Guard toward failure
Carlos Barrachina Lisón believes that the National Guard is going toward failure as it has been occurring with the security strategies since 2006, when troops left their headquarters to fight against the organized crime, while not taking into account the state and municipal police.
He claims that the National Guards ‘has militarized the public security issue, as it occurred during the two previous governments.’ Moreover, he adds that ‘they have ignored municipal and state police officers, confirming that the National Guard is not a civilian force, contrary to what the government sustains. It is outrageous’.
Meanwhile, the scholar says, the organized crime will keep on operating, and violence will increase as the National Guard will have to wait over a year for seeing some results. ‘Mexico cannot allow the reform of the public security program to fail, and if the federal government repeats past mistakes, the country will experience a fragile situation and crimes and violence will not diminish,’ alleges the expert of Casede.
The National Guard is an imposition, as it was the Gendarmerie and the Law of Internal Security (Ley de Seguridad Interior): it means to turn around so that the militaries rely on a legal assurance coverage that they did not count on before, he highlights.
The solution would be to create local and state institutions for real. However, there is no political intention to build a force of such a nature. Militaries have been out in the streets since 2006, and they did not do anything, he says. ‘We need intelligence, not whims,’ claims Barrachina Lisón.
He also maintains that President López Obrador should assume that in 2019 he is responsible for public safety. He has been persuaded by militaries to create the National Guard to protect himself; they have been in police brigades only generating more violence. When the militaries tried to protect themselves by using the Law of Internal Security, the court rejected their attempts; this is how the National Guard has emerged, worsening what had previously been done.
On the other hand, scholar Javier Oliva Posada highlights that in Mexico there are no reliable studies demonstrating that the permanent assignation of security tasks to militaries has been successful: ‘they have been just failures, we must learn from the past, we cannot make mistakes in this historical period where the country already lacks time’.
“Since 1988, all presidents have not been efficient in security management issues: all of them have been employing the Armed Forces’. Currently, he claims, President López Obrador has given them the means to militarize the police. This way, he is creating a fourth armed force. Hence, the scholar wonders: ‘what if they fail?’ It represents a possibility and a very high risk.
He considers that the following conditions need to be in place simultaneously so that the National Guard can be successful: proper management of the armed and civil issues, reform of federal and state penitentiary systems, strengthening of state and municipal policies, as well as strengthening of the accusatory criminal system.
According to General Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez, the National Guard is nothing more than a constitutionalized militarization to protect the Armed Forces. It is a severe problem and a prelude to a spiral of violence way greater than Enrique Peña Nieto’s. Indeed, it is already clear that such a situation results in a break in public and national security.
“It is a latent risk that, faced with the failure of the National Guard, the country will support far-right parties as it happened in other Latin American nations; it is a democratic regression and a step backward in terms of balance between civil and military power’, specifies the Doctor in Political Sciences at the UNAM.
A sector of the society hoped that the militaries would come back to their headquarters so that the State would resume public security through institutional controls. However, this hope has been lost by now.
Finally, Gallardo Rodríguez emphasizes that the territorial coordination units run counter to the territorial divisions of the Armed Forces, violate the federal system, increase human rights violations and the persecution against national democratic movements. Therefore, he adds, ‘It is our responsibility, of all the citizens, to reverse the reform which created the National Guard.’
By José Réyez
Translated by: Federica Antoniani