The control of the country’s customs by the Armed Forces continues to advance. Now, the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena), which has the administrative and operational command of 31 customs offices, established that December 5 is the deadline for all civilian personnel left in these fiscal precincts to be replaced by military personnel.
The instruction implies that they must be replaced from verifiers to tax collectors and legal personnel, according to a letter issued by the Sedena and whose authenticity was confirmed to Political Animal by authorities of the National Customs Agency of Mexico (ANAM), an instance that is still in charge of the fiscal control of the points of access of goods to the country.
The document was addressed on July 20 by the commander of the 25th Military Zone based in Puebla, Brigadier General José Martín Luna de la Luz — who recently took control of that military unit — to the head of the internal customs of that entity, retired Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Bedolla Morales.
The letter reveals that the order to remove civilian personnel is part of a “Strategy for the Strengthening of Customs” that is in charge of Sedena and that has a general character.
It also shows that customs were subordinated to the command of the Military Zone corresponding to the entity in which these tax facilities are located.
“With regard to the ‘Sedena Strategy for the Strengthening of Customs’, it is made known to you that, no later than December 5, 2022, the necessary operational and administrative civilian personnel of the 31 customs offices under the coordination of Sedena must be replaced,” the document says.
“For the above, I will thank you for employing military personnel with customs training in all the functions that were the absolute competence of civilian personnel, such as: shift managers, verifiers, modulators, selection of vehicles for inspection, operators of technological devices, handling of electronic devices, legal area, collection of taxes, various administrative procedures and others that due to their importance are considered necessary for the good operation of the fiscal enclosures.”
The militarization of the country’s customs is a strategy of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to combat corruption and whose implementation has taken a path of more than two years.
In April 2021, Political Animal revealed that at least 10 customs holders designated in the current administration were being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) for alleged acts of corruption and money laundering from smuggling, arms trafficking, huachicol and even drug trafficking.
In July 2021, President López Obrador published a decree in which he instructed that the Customs authority become a decentralized organ of the Ministry of Finance – the ANAM – emphasizing that, since foreign trade is a matter of national security, the new institution should prioritize the hiring of personnel who belong or have belonged to the Army or the Navy.
“It is convenient to carry out actions that strengthen national security, mainly in the access points to the country, preferably considering the hiring of personnel who have stood out as guarantors of transparency, honesty and service to the people of Mexico, as is the case of those who belong or have belonged to the Armed Forces, to join as personnel of the new decentralized administrative body,” said the decree.
As a result of the presidential instruction, ANAM began to train Army and Navy commanders in customs administration work. That is the personnel who, sedena instructs in its office of July 20, must replace the civil servants who remain in customs as of December of this year.
Currently, 17 maritime customs and two interior customs are in charge of the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar), and 31 of the Army.
President López Obrador has stressed that tax collection increased after the takeover by military elements.
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