New security force to debut soon in Mexico

06/27/2014 5:15 PM

06/27/2014 5:29 PM

A vaunted plan to create a new security force, known as the Gendarmerie, has been watered down sharply in the past two years but is about to come to fruition.

Sometime in late July, the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto will put the 5,000-member Gendarmerie into action, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Friday.

The force will not be anywhere near the scope of what Pena Nieto outlined while running for president back in 2012. At that time, he suggested the new force might have up to 50,000 officers.

Since then, the government has steadily scaled back its vision of the force. By February 2013, a previous national security commissioner, Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, forecast 10,000 gendarmes. Four months after that, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced the force might have only 5,000 people.

In a briefing with foreign reporters Friday, Rubido said Friday that gendarme recruits are getting final training in Colombia. Other nations that have provided assistance include Spain, France and the United States.

Rubido said the government thought about launching the Gendarmerie July 13, a national day of celebration of the federal police in Mexico. But then officials realized that is the day of the World Cup soccer finale match.

"We’re going to put it off for a week or two," Rubido said.

What precise functions the new corps may have are not yet clear. A gendarmerie is usually a militia that carries out police functions in rural areas, most often in Europe. The French one was established in the late 18th century. The Italian carabinieri followed in 1814 and the Spanish Civil Guard in 1844.

Also yet to be determined: How will the Gendarmerie and the Federal Police divide their functions? Both operate across the country. The answer might become clearer in a month.

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