AMLO Gives Armed Forces a Bigger Role in Mexico's Public Life

(Bloomberg) -- Less than a month into his presidency, one of the unexpected winners of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government appears to be the military.

The left-wing politician is enlisting the Mexican military for a bigger role in public life, from fighting rampant fuel theft to building an airport in the capital.

The government said Thursday that it’s deploying about 4,000 army and navy personnel to protect 58 strategic facilities of state-run energy giant Pemex as it seeks to crack down on a contraband gasoline business that has caused over 147 billion pesos ($7.46 billion) in losses in the past three years.

On top of using the military to bolster Pemex operations, AMLO, as the president is known, has also proposed changes to the constitution to give the armed forces greater power to police Mexico’s streets by creating a national guard composed of members of the army, navy and federal police. In addition, the military will be in charge of building an alternate airport in Mexico City after the new administration vowed to cancel the $13 billion Texcoco project even though it was one-third built.

AMLO defended the role of the military in building the Santa Lucia airport saying the land for the project belongs to the Defense Ministry and it will be kept that way after construction.

“The army’s system to build is among the best in the country," he said Friday morning at his daily press conference. “They build roads, they build hospitals, they build schools, always."

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