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article imageMexico says political conspiracy behind police protest

By AFP     Jul 4, 2019 in World

The Mexican government said Thursday there is a political conspiracy behind a protest by federal police angry over their imminent transfer to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's new National Guard.

Hundreds of federal police have been blocking roads and demonstrating in Mexico City the past two days to protest the National Guard, a newly launched security force that is Lopez Obrador's plan to fight soaring crime and deal with chronic corruption in the police.

Officers accuse the government of cutting their pay and violating the constitution by putting them under military command in the National Guard.

Lopez Obrador, who denies those claims, fired back that the protest was being promoted by "dark forces" in Mexican politics.

The leftist leader declined to name names.

But Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said that "interest groups linked to corruption" were backing the protests.

He specifically mentioned former president Felipe Calderon as having ties to the protest leaders.

Calderon, a fierce critic of Lopez Obrador, was president from 2006 to 2012 for the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

"The situation is being exploited by systematic critics of the government, and also by interest groups linked to the corruption that was structurally embedded in the federal police," Durazo told a news conference.

Calderon denied any link to the protest.

"I reject the cowardly insinuation that I am behind this. If you have proof, show it. If not, retract your statement," he said.

After holding talks with the government, the protesting police agreed to lift their road blocks in the capital.

The government has repeatedly insisted that joining the National Guard will be voluntary, that no officers will lose their pay or benefits, and that those who want to work elsewhere can be reassigned to other duties if they choose.

Mexico officially launched the National Guard Sunday with a total of 70,000 members -- expected to rise to 150,000 in the coming months, largely drawn from the existing police and military.

The new force is Lopez Obrador's plan to fight a surge in violent crime linked to drug trafficking. The country registered a record 33,500 murders last year.

But the president has faced criticism from rights groups for using soldiers to conduct civilian police duties, for naming a recently retired general to lead the guard, and for deploying it to Mexico's borders to curb migration, which was not part of its original mission.

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