He told us that this office in the Chapultepec Tower was the place where the Pact for Mexico -President Enrique Peña Nieto's multiparty alliance for constitutional reform- was signed. With the eyes set on the window, gazing at the forest of Los Pinos -the old presidential residence that AMLO converted into a museum last December- he answered if he was ever visited by the former when he served as his Secretary of the Interior. "Never", Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong quickly replied, dressed up in his customary dark suit and a red tie.
In this exchange with LPO, the PRI Senator talked about his party and shared his analysis on immigration, security, and the Super Secretariat of the administration, headed by Marcelo Ebrard.
You were also once referred to as a Supersecretary, what do you have to say about the controversy triggered by the Ministry of the Interior's capacities being absorbed by Secretary of the Exterior Marcelo Ebrard in order to negotiate with the White House?
First, we must talk about the agreement thanks to which the foreign secretary was able to perform. There are still doubts about what is the bottom of what they all agreed on, what was written, and that, maybe, it was just a verbal agreement. That is my first concern.
Second, the functions of each side should be well delimitated. The Secretary's should be about international coexistence, but regarding immigration, public policies on such matters and security, are to be handled by other Ministries. In this case, yes, the Ministry of the Interior.
It is worrying that they take the foreign secretary to these negotiations, regarding security, immigration and, exterior politics.
There are still some doubts as to what the bottom of the agreement between Ebrard and Trump is, of what was written and what only spoken. That is my main concern.
Do you see Ebrard Casaubón as a Super Secretary?
No. I see him as someone who is acting beyond his capacities. Beyond the President's will. It should not be allowed for him to go and talk about responsibilities that are not his. I think that the Minister of the Interior is the one that should have gone to the US. I think that if security was discussed, the Ministry of Security (Alfonso Durazo) should have been there. Who knows about these matters better than them? I mean, I guess! And who can better promise things that are doable than them?
I have no doubt in Marcelo's ability, what I doubt is that whether he knows exactly what the Immigration Institute is, the one that was economically dismantled. Even when I was Secretary, resources were being taken away from it, nowadays they have left it with almost nothing. What they are planning to achieve (what they compromised to), they are not going to make it.
What about Secretary Secretary of the Interior Olga Sánchez Cordero? Do you see her in a diminished role?
No. I don't see her acting, but I do see her operating. I think she must defend her space. If they took a wrong decision at the start of the administration by opening the southern border, and they did, reversing it today and going back to how we were (which is what they will do), it should only be because the decision was made by the Minister of the Interior.
They immediately removed the head of the Immigration Institute, he quit. Do they know what it is to start from the bottom a 45-day commitment? It is going to be, I insist, particularly difficult to comply.
PRI supported MORENA in the creation of the National Guard. Does this make sense now that containing immigrants is back as a policy, just like you did?
The National Guard was for public security, not for immigration control, nor an arm of the US police. Do you know what 6 000 officers mean? We only trained 5 000 officers, young ones, [well] prepared. And it cost 20 billion pesos [around 1 billion dollars]. Now, they want to add 6 000 [troops] for immigration purposes, understanding the difficulties we have had in matters of public security for a while back.
It is bad! It is bad that these decisions are made without assessment. That is what I mean when I say that to each their own responsibilities. The National Guard is not formed. I think I understand that they are taking the military, appoint them as National Guards and they are going to leave the responsibilities to them. Excuse me! Soldiers must be trained to act as National Guard, aiding the immigration matter. None of that is achieved overnight by decree or because of a speech.
It is highly concerning what they are doing. I do believe the Minister of the Interior [Olga Sánchez Cordero] must stand her ground with what is correspondent to the office, politically and bureaucratically. I think that the Minister of Security must do exactly the same. And I think Marcelo Ebrard must be more careful with the agreements he signs outside, considering what his job is inside the country.
The deployment of the National Guard, according to sources inside Palacio Nacional, answers to the urgency caused by the increase of the immigration flux. Another urgency is the insecurity they inherited from the previous administration.
Look, we voted for the National Guard because they considered that that is their [security] strategy. And we, as opposed to them [when we were in power], are not against their public policies, which are already being defined. We have given them what they have asked for, so they can act as a government, but the time has come for them to show some results. I think, however, that talking about a National Guard as a solution for the entire public security problem is a big mistake...
The Guard along with the Welfare Programs. That is the strategy against the violence and the insecurity proposed by this administration.
Yes, they say that with those two strategies, criminals will stop acting. I can assure you that one thing doesn't have a lot to do with the other.
But, let's see, they say that their National Guard is going to solve the security issue. It has been proven that there is no chance that a federal effort can solve local problems. If there is not a commitment from the Federal Government to aid the local ones in professionalizing their municipal and state security departments, no matter the good will, they will not be able to do it.
Did you talk about this with the current administration?
I have done so, I have told them my experiences and I do want them to succeed. This was at the beginning. They did not vote for the centralized command for state police forces...
The Centralized State Command...
A lot has been said about it, but no, [our proposal was to create] unique state police departments. Disappearing municipal ones and keeping only state police departments. That is where the problem is. Our initiative was not voted in 2014. It was rejected [by Congress]. And they come with another idea which I hope works, although I don't see how. I say this very carefully, I don't see how. I hope it does! But I just don't see it, because there is going to be a lot of resistance, locally.
There are 1800 municipal corporations, with no training (most of them), no benefits. That is a problem. They are co-opted by criminal organizations.
Isn't it that this government is not betting on state police forces because of the lack of MORENA governors?
That has nothing to do with it. I do not think that there is a governor who doesn't want to do well in public security. It is a problem, first, of the governors. They have shown and proved the President that they fully support him. But it can't be done that way. There must be a communion within the Police Corps.
Well, they come with this idea of the National Guard. They say that, by the end of their term, they are going to have 200 000 officers. They are going to have to move the Army over here. Excuse me! Not even with those numbers can it be done. It has to be done along with the local governments, but if local police departments are not dutifully prepared, I can predict a scenario similar to the one we are living.
This government has made it clear that they are not focusing on beheading the drug cartels. Do you think that this bothered the White House?
I am well aware of what the US thinks, and of course, they will not like this decision. Besides, I understand that this is only in paper because they have made arrests. Not big, flashy ones, but they have done it.
When I heard the speech of not stopping them, I said, "So, those who have taken the lives of not hundreds, but thousands, do we need to tell them that there is forgiveness and that we are not going to act against them?" Where is the rule of law? No, of course, we must stop them.
We are talking here of 114 of the most high-profile criminals, the ones wanted on an international scale. But that does not mean that we only stopped those, we stopped the ones that stole cars, the ones that kidnapped, others that maybe were not of such a high profile, but we did stop them. We highlighted 114 because they were part of the 125 most wanted. But saying that that will not happen anymore, that criminal policy is to not stopping them, what do you want a National Guard for, then? If you are not going to contain crime, if you are going to let anyone do what they want... What I did was to stop them.
Well, what the current administration says is that the strategy of President Peña Nieto did not work.
Let me remind them that in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, we had the lowest numbers in insecurity since 1998 when these evaluations began. Again, we sent the constitutional reform, and it was not approved. And well, an increase began. That and the new penal justice system. This month we are celebrating two years of the new penal justice system, to which they have not invested a single penny. Then, criminals will leave jail, and maybe they won't even step inside them anymore.
Is López Obrador's honeymoon with the public security issue over?
Well, they wanted it to be that way. Every day, in his morning conference, I see him saying "this is because of the previous administration, this is because of them". It's been six months already!
Let's round up with the Presidential recall referendum, Senator. Is it the next battle in the Senate?
If they do not change the date for the recall referendum, I am sure that our caucus will not vote for it. They say: "The opposition -meaning us- doesn't want a bad government to be evaluated and removed". We say: "Yes, we do". But let's do it so that it does not look like meddling from the Federal Government in the voting process. If you place it in 2021, 2024, or 2027, you are messing with the [electoral] process. That would be a direct hit in the democratic life of the country.
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