Mexican Congress backs Army taking control of National Guard

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico's Senate early on Friday approved legislation giving the Army control over the civilian-led National Guard despite fierce opposition from critics who argue the step is unconstitutional and will militarize public security.

The National Guard began operating in early 2019 at the behest of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who campaigned for office on a pledge to return the military to barracks after the years it had spent combating violent drug gangs.

He argued the National Guard would end corruption under its predecessor, the Federal Police, and he has also extended the Army's remit into other areas of civilian life.

However, his government has presided over record levels of violence, and opposition legislators and activists say the National Guard has also committed alleged abuses.

Senators voted by a margin of 71 in favor of the bill, with 51 against. There were two abstentions. The lower house of Congress approved the changes last week.

The legislation, which now passes to Lopez Obrador to be signed into law, gives the Army operational, financial and administrative control of the National Guard, which currently answers to the civilian-led security ministry.

The changes are almost certain to be challenged on the grounds they violate the constitution, and some senior legal experts say they are likely to be struck down in the Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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