As part of a new nationwide anti-corruption initiative, Mexico’s land, air and seaports will be operated and monitored by the military, Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador announced Friday.
Mexico’s army will now be in charge of the country’s 49 customs offices – including the Mexican side of ports along the U.S.-Mexico border – in an effort to combat corruption and the massive smuggling of drugs across ports of entry.
“We have taken this decision about management of the port because of the mismanagement, the poor administration of the seaports, the corruption, the smuggling of drugs into the country through these ports,” Obrador said during his daily press briefing on Friday.
Obrador added that “ports, and especially customs, have long been enclaves of corruption. It is not just a matter of capacity, of professionalism, it is of honesty.”
Mexico has 49 customs offices or districts around the country. They include the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana, Reynosa, Matamoros and Nogales, Arizona.
Mexico’s annual customs revenue was around $40 billion in 2018, according to Horacio Duarte, Mexico’s head of customs.
Trade industry professionals in Mexico said the initiative could slow the movement of goods across international borders.
“It is a decision that is part of a national strategy of militarization of the country, but it is part of an ignorance of the role that customs have in the Mexican customs system,” Manuel Díaz, CEO of Seko Logistics México, said in news outlet T21.
Some U.S. officials said it could be a step in the right direction.
“Mexico’s military given administrative control of customs, ports, this can help if it adds checks against them being paid off too,” tweeted Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador and Mexico public policy fellow and adviser at the Mexico Institute in Washington.