The Los Angeles Times reports that major Mexican civic groups are pressing President Enrique Peña Nieto to proceed cautiously with his plan to create a national paramilitary force to combat violence in the country.
The civic groups are concerned that Peña Nieto will create the new force by presidential decree, instead of introducing a bill in the Legislature. Without a vigorous debate in Congress, the groups fear, the gendarmerie may suffer from an ill-defined mandate and lack important human rights protocols, among other things.
Former President Felipe Calderón controversially deployed Mexico’s military to fight drug cartels. Upward of 60,000 people were killed during his six-year-term.
During his campaign last year, Peña Nieto promised his national security strategy would rely less on the military, which civic groups have accused of committing human rights abuses as they’ve tried to dismantle the cartels.
The new administration is reportedly training thousands of people drawn from the army and navy to populate the ranks of the new paramilitary force. In the meantime, it’s keeping soldiers on the streets.
The Times reports that civil society leaders are concerned the new paramilitary force could clash with the military over jurisdictional issues, especially if those details aren’t worked out ahead of time. The administration has said the force will initially focus on combating crimes like robbery and extortion.
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