Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s president-elect, says he will not order the military off the country’s streets but continue using them in the efforts to stamp out organised crime.
Mexico deployed its armed forces to fight drug trafficking in 2006.
Since then, the military has enjoyed some successes but the overall crime rate has not been improved. Soldiers have also been embroiled in several rights scandals, including the extrajudicial killings of gang members.
“Without the aid of the army and the navy, we would not be able to solve the security problem,” Lopez Obrador said on Friday, outlining his plan for when he assumes office in December.
“We are not in a position to pull out the armed forces, because that would leave the populace unprotected.”
In the lead-up to the election, Lopez Obrador had proposed to rewrite the rules of the drug war, suggesting negotiated peace and amnesties for some of those who are currently being targeted by members of the security forces.
“The failed strategy of combating insecurity and violence will change,” Lopez Obrador said in his victory speech on July 1.
“More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence.”
However, on Friday he admitted that the federal police was not ready to replace the armed forces.
“They [state and municipal police] are almost not working, to say it with diplomacy, … they are not fulfilling their responsibility,” said Lopez Obrador.
“This is the bitter reality,” he added.
2017 deadliest year in two decades
For the past 12 years, Mexico has fought violent drug gangs by deploying thousands of police, soldiers and intelligence officers to crack down on cartels and their leaders.
Last year was the deadliest year in two decades, with over 23,000 homicides, an increase by 10.7 percent compared to 2016.
In 2018, there have been 18,994 murders in seven months, a 20 percent jump compared to the same period in 2017, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
If the trend continues, 2018 is set to be the most violent year ever in Mexico.
Human rights advocates say it is improper to use the military in such a role. But security experts respond that the police are not up to the job of taking on the cartels without military support.
The wave of violence linked to drug trafficking has left almost 200,000 dead since former President Felipe Calderon’s government ordered the military onto the streets.