("Quid coniuratio est?")
"PAN" CALLS FOR NATIONAL GUARD
The PAN [opposition political party] faction in the [Mexican] Senate proposed yesterday that the federal Executive branch organize and put into operation the National Guard, as established by the Constitution, to avoid "the excessive use of the Army," the growing militarization of the nation and "the risk of the military going beyond the limits which the law specifically confers on them."
Headed by their co-ordinator, Gabriel Jimenez Remus, the legislators demanded the appearance of the Secretary of National Defense, Enrique Cervantes Aguirre, in order to probe into current militarization and acquisition of armaments. The precondition, he said, is that absolute reserve, discretion and prudence would be observed in areas of national security and State secrets.
Juan de Dios Castro, jurist and senator from Durango, stressed that the risks of this militarization are beyond doubt: "Violation of civil liberties. For starters, the right to freely travel; excessive proliferation of goods; disquiet amongst the population which provokes instability, which in turn affects the economy."
The legislator explained that the formation of the National Guard is provided for in the Constitution and that it is the function of the Congress to expedite the law which regulates the activity of that body. To form the National Guard, he added, does not imply the addition of yet another security force, although there is a risk of that if its use remains permanent. When it has been created in other nations, it is only during emergency situations such as that in which we now live.
Norberto Corella, senator from Baja California, said that in the recent appearance by the Secretary of Government, Emilio Chuayffet, in the Chamber of Deputies, the idea of the National Guard was first suggested yet Chuayffet was against it, arguing that calling up the National Guard was only to be done in an "emergency" situation. The emergency exists, added Corella, since the guerrilla problem is ongoing and there are increasing complaints from the citizenry about the militarization of police forces. In that context, added Corella, new military weaponry displayed during the parade this past September 16th should not be overlooked.
Senator Corella asked how it was possible that the Secretary of Defense had not yet appeared before Congress, given the current unrest. He likewise launched a strong criticism against the Senate Defense Commission, which -- he asserted -- has no understanding of what is happening in the Mexican Army.
Referring to Chuayffet's comments, Juan de Dios Castro pointed out that who determines what is an emergency situation is not Chuayffet but the law. And as the said law does not exist it is necessary to elaborate it. To that, Senator Jimenez Remos added that if that is not possible then the legislators ought to revoke section XV of article 73 of the Constitution, which refers to the creation of the National Guard.
The senator from Durango (Juan de Dios Castro) added that President Zedillo was "extremely sparse" in his Report of Government with respect to the guerrilla groups operating in Mexico. Responding to reporters, Senator Castro said that the militarization would be understandable if the Secretary of Government made available information regarding the level, severity, and reach of the guerrillas.
"The problem is that he give us the information so we can understand the level in which the federal Executive is deploying the Army in order to safeguard internal security," he said.
Jimenez Remos on his part pointed out that, in case of emergency, the PAN faction in the Senate would support a proposal by the Executive to call up the National Guard. The National Guard, he said, would not function 365 days a year. Its composition would be subject to civil control and its members would be persons having superior training to that of the police.
In the press conference, the PAN senators referred to the content of the recent Report of Government and to the appearances of Secretaries of State before the Congress. Jimenez Remus opined that President Zedillo, "omitted many areas," especially regarding his position on the needed re-structuring of the system of wealth distribution.
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