López Obrador assures that the "war" against drug trafficking in Mexico has ended

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the military fight against drugs has ended and that persecuting capos is not a priority for his government, although it promotes the creation of a controversial National Guard that critics consider will militarize Mexico.

The leftist president has announced social aid because, he believes, poverty is what drives many to crime.
The leftist president has announced social aid because, he believes, poverty is what drives many to crime.

"There is no war, officially there is no war, we want peace, we are going to achieve peace," said López Obrador when questioned at his morning press conference about whether during his mandate, which began on December 1, arrested some drug boss.

"Capos have not been arrested, because that is not our main function, the main function of the government is to guarantee public safety, what we are looking for is security, that we can reduce the number of daily homicides," he added.

Security experts have pointed out that the mere capture of drug lords is not enough to end criminality and that, in fact, this has contributed to the armed forces taking control of the cartels and multiplying autonomous cells, marked for a high degree of violence.

López Obrador was for years a harsh critic of the military anti-drug strategy launched in December 2006, in which there was a wave of violence, with more than 200,000 homicides, according to official figures, which do not detail how many cases are linked to organized crime.

The 65-year-old leftist president has announced social aid because, he believes, poverty is what drives many to crime.

As a candidate, he launched a controversial proposal to give amnesty to criminals, but this has been blurring amid protests, especially family members of victims of crime.

During the campaign, López Obrador said he would return the military to the barracks but, already as President, launched a constitutional reform initiative to create a National Guard with tens of thousands of soldiers.

National and international human rights organizations, opposition parties and some members of the pro-government party, Morena, have harshly criticized the initiative as it leads to the militarization of the country and goes against its campaign promises.

After the declaration that the anti-drug "war" ended, security expert Alejandro Hope observes in Lopez Obrador a "clear contradiction", because what he says is far from the measures he is taking, such as creating a National Guard.

"Its strategy against crime does not change much, it is not different from previous governments and it even accentuates the use of the Armed Forces in tasks of public security," he said.

Hope stressed that a meeting of the Public Security Council was held "where it was an opportunity to outline this strategy, but still do not have it and I do not understand the reason for these statements on the fly" (impromptu) of the president, he added.

López Obrador daily assures that the violence is going down, but Hope notes that the figures offered by the president are not "particularly reliable" when compared with those of the Executive Security Secretariat, in charge of the recount of violent acts.

The reform to create the National Guard, which requires the support of two thirds of the bicameral Congress, was approved by the Chamber of Deputies with votes from Morena with the backing of the ex-Governor Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

The initiative was sent to the Senate, where Morena again requires support from the PRI, which has warned however that it will support the reform only with modifications.

In 2018, the number of homicides in Mexico shot up to 33,341 (against 28,866 in 2017), the highest since the registration began in 1997, according to government statistics.