05/10/13 – The long-awaited Mexican National Gendarmerie will be ready and operational by September 2013, reported the National Commission of Public Security (Comisión Nacional de Seguridad, CNS) of the Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB). Carlos Humberto Toledo Moreno, the inspector general of the CNS, which is the former Ministry of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), announced that the Gendarmerie would be publicly presented on September 16 at the Military Parade commemorating Mexico’s national independence, although it will begin operations a few months before.
According to Toledo, the CNS-controlled Gendarmerie—which security expert Alejandro Hope describes as an intermediate force between the military and the police—, will start with roughly 10,000 members, 85% of which come from the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and the remaining 15% from the Ministry of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR). By the end of the Peña Nieto administration (2012-2018), it is expected to grow to 50,000 units. The members of the military that will become part of the Gendarmerie, explained Toledo, are under training to shift from their military mindsets to become proximity police officers. They expect that in the future, with enough time for training, civilians could also become part of the new force. According to Toledo, the Gendarmerie will operate in strategic regions, assisting the Army’s and Navy’s operations against organized crime and filling in spaces where Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) presence is lacking. At least initially, the new force will only assist the PF in their duties without interfering in their functions.
Ever since President Enrique Peña Nieto announced his proposed creation of the Gendarmerie during his presidential campaign, there has been a growing debate on the role that the force will play in its collaboration with the Federal Police, an institution that grew exponentially under the command of Genaro García Luna to 40,000 members during the Calderón administration (2006-2012), and that has faced serious allegations of corruption. The CNS houses the PF and acknowledged the police force’s corruption, but argued that it has been stretched in its duties and will eventually return to its original purpose—to patrol roads and support the citizenry. According to Alejandro Hope, the PF has an annual budget of 35 billion pesos (more than $2.5 billion USD), whereas the Gendarmerie will have an initial annual budget of 1.5 billion pesos (about $125 million USD) and will request 3.5 billion more (about $290 million USD).
There have also been some concerns among different organizations throughout Mexico about the lack of public information regarding the Gendarmerie. María Elena Morera, president of the civil society organization Common Cause (Causa en Común), called for a public discussion about the force’s creation to see “if this is the kind of police we want, or we do not want it, or which other options are there [sic].” Morera did acknowledge that the head of SEGOB, Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, expressed his willingness to open up the discussion on the new security force to the public. Members of civil society expect the Gendarmerie to be legislated by Congress, thus legitimizing the force and grounding it in a certain legal framework.