Fourth Report of the Observatory of the National Guard and Militarization in Mexico

As president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador retracted from his anti-militarist speech and stipulated in the National Peace and Security Plan 2018-2024 that, due to the lack of professional police institutions capable of facing the challenge of insecurity, it was necessary to continue having military institutions in the fight against crime. With this premise, López Obrador has promoted a militarization the country has never known in its modern history, creating a military National Guard and involving the Armed Forces in various civilian tasks. Regarding this accelerated militarization process, the government has provided contradictory and incomplete information. For this reason, the Observatory of the National Guard and Militarization in Mexico was created, made up of a group of academics, journalists and experts, as well as civil society organizations.

Below is a summary of the information collected four years after the National Guard began operations, through official sources (newsletters, reports, and official statements), local and national media, and requests for access to information from different federal security agencies.


  1. Integration
  • The increases in personnel of the National Guard correspond, for the most part, to “transfers” of military elements to the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection. Of the total active elements of the GN, 71% correspond to the Armed Forces.
Armed Forces personnel assigned to the National Guard from 2019 to 2022
Year  SEDENA elements SEMAR elements Total elements of the National Guard Percentage of military elements in the National Guard
2019 48,771 9,410 74,473 78%
2020 59,843 13,528 98,282 75%
2021 62,135 16,792 99,946 79%
2022 76,400 14,541 128,233 71%
  1. Training
Elements graduated from the initial training courses
Year Quantity
2020 24,560
2021 25,620
2022 23,511
Jan-Mar 2023 6,074
Total 79,765 (62% of the total elements)
  1. Police Unique Certificate
  • By April 2023, the National Guard claimed to have granted the Police Unique Certificate to 62,629 of its members, 49% of its elements.
  • Through an agreement of the National Public Security Council, the term to certify all elements was extended to May 31, 2024. In one year, the remaining 51% would have to be certified, plus the elements that continue to be transferred from the Secretary of National Defense and the Secretary of the Navy.


  1. Deployment
  • The operational deployment of the National Guard is not based on the criminal incidence of the entities. At the end of 2022, the largest number of members of the National Guard was concentrated in Mexico City (20,605). Another example is Zacatecas, which, in March 2023, would have 1,402 elements.
  • According to the 2022 Annual Report of the National Guard, a total of 15,494 elements were permanently deployed for the detention of migrants.


  1. Budget
  • The budget assigned to Secretary of National Defense has reached historic highs, while subsidies for the police have had minimal increases or have stagnated, and the bulk of the federal public administration has suffered severe budget cuts.
  • The budget assigned for 2023 to the National Guard was of 67 thousand 826 million pesos, 17 times more than in 2020. If the one that corresponds directly to the Armed Forces is added to this budget, the total amounts to 221 thousand 616 million pesos.
  • As the National Guard budget increases, the income of the Armed Forces is also raised in different ways. The Secretary of National Defense manages the Mayan Train and controls 4 airports, in addition to the new company Aerolinea del Estado Mexicano SA de CV. Last April, the Chamber of Deputies approved legal modifications so that this Secretary receives 80% of the taxes collected from foreigners.
  • There is no translation between increased resources and greater operational efficiency.


  1. Military elements in the civilian sphere
  • 14 state public security secretariats are headed by military commanders: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Zacatecas. In addition to the ownership of the Undersecretariat for Citizen Security and Protection and the National Intelligence Center, 1,237 members of the Armed Forces hold positions as secretaries, directors, and administrators in local corporations.
  • In addition to public security and the management of ports, airports, customs and the Mayan Train, the ownership of 17 offices of the National Institute of Migration also stands out; from the Biological and Reactive Laboratories of Mexico (Birmex); and the Administration and Finance Department of the ISSSTE, and other sub-areas of this dependency.


  1. Alleged violations of human rights
  • From January 2019 to March 2023, the Secretary of National Defense, the Secretary o Navy and the National Guard accumulated 4,012 complaints for alleged human rights violations. These complaints are mostly related to cases of alleged torture, forced disappearances, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and arbitrary detentions.
  • Since its creation, the National Guard has received 14 recommendations from the National Human Rights Commission, eight of which are for serious human rights violations.
  • The Armed Forces carry out irregular espionage functions. Among the people spied on would be activists, human rights defenders and journalists. Given the subordination of the National Human Rights Commission to the Executive, the Commission indicated, in a statement, that there was no evidence that the federal government or any entity within it carried out this type of activity.
  • According to the National Guard reports, from 2020 to 2022 there have been no criminal sanctions.


  1. Effects of militarization
  • The National Guard has not given results, it lacks clear objectives that can be monitored and evaluated.
  • The danger of a greater number of human rights violations increases.
  • The strengthening of the Armed Forces occurs to the detriment of the local police forces, which suffer budget stagnation or a decrease in resources.
  • The increases in the budget for the Armed Forces, and the traditional opacity of these institutions, increase the risk of corruption.
  • Military leadership is not compatible with a democratic system defined by the preeminence of civil institutions. Especially worrying are the partisan expressions of the Secretary of Defense and the threats from military officials to judges.


  1. Proposals to reverse militarization
  • Comply with what the Constitution establishes in Article 21, in the sense that the National Guard is a civil corporation and, therefore, prevents it from being legally and structurally integrated into the Secretary of Defense.
  • Legislate to assign internal security tasks to the National Guard. Also carry out a critical review of the organic laws of the Armed Forces to specify and limit the scope of their responsibilities in times of peace, including:
  • Functions for internal security.
  • Adapt and apply the basic criteria for police development established in the General Law of the National Public Security System.
  • Disseminate in a transparent and accessible way detailed information about your budget and other income.
  • Interaction with civil society and human rights organizations through public consultations, dialogue roundtables and the openness to receive complaints and complaints from citizens.
  • Strengthen the role of Congress to monitor and even investigate the work of agencies involved in public safety, homeland security, and national security.
  • Restore and increase federal and local budgets for police development, and establish objectives and monitoring through the National Council of Public Security and the Conference of Secretaries.

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