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Mexico’s army gets a new military command structure

August 13, 2021 GMT
National Guard patrol the Zacatecas-Fresnillo highway after a series of recent attacks and clashes between drug cartels in Zacatecas state, Mexico, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. There are more than 100,000 guardsmen deployed in Mexico, plus the military, yet the bloodshed continues. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
National Guard patrol the Zacatecas-Fresnillo highway after a series of recent attacks and clashes between drug cartels in Zacatecas state, Mexico, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. There are more than 100,000 guardsmen deployed in Mexico, plus the military, yet the bloodshed continues. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
National Guard patrol the Zacatecas-Fresnillo highway after a series of recent attacks and clashes between drug cartels in Zacatecas state, Mexico, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. There are more than 100,000 guardsmen deployed in Mexico, plus the military, yet the bloodshed continues. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president has assigned the army so many roles, from building airports to transporting coronavirus vaccines, that the government announced a new command structure Friday to handle strictly military matters.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the creation of a new office, the Army Command, within the Defense Department.

The army’s Chiefs of Staff will continue overseeing the army’s diverse portfolio of projects, while the Command will handle questions of training, doctrine and staffing.

The Defense Department said the previous structure “limited the coordination, interaction and understanding with the armed forces of other countries” that have more centralized military commands.

López Obrador has increased the army’s roles to such a point — covering everything from law enforcement to building bank branch offices — that it has raised concerns in Mexico.

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The army in Mexico not only oversees the air force, but also is largely in charge of recruiting, training and supplying members of the National Guard, which López Obrador sees as the chief crime-fighting body in a country with weak local police forces.

Soldiers are also building rail projects and growing trees for a government reforestation program; military forces are assigned to guarding pipelines against fuel thieves, corralling migrants at the country’s borders, and running many of the country’s customs offices.