NEWS National Guard dispatched to Mexico City subway amid fears of vandalism

National Guard dispatched to Mexico City subway amid fears of vandalism

mexico city — Mexico City’s mayor announced Thursday that 6,060 National Guard officers will be stationed on the city’s subway system after a series of incidents that officials say may have been caused by vandalism.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said the mechanical problems in recent months may have been caused by “out of the ordinary” causes. She seemed to imply, but not say, that some form of sabotage might be involved.

“In recent months, there have been events that we consider to be abnormal,” Sheinbaum said, adding that she had asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to send in paramilitary National Guard troops , he agreed.

The mayor said guards will be stationed at subway stations and “a number of other facilities” in the system and will be there “for several months.”

She did not explain how the Guard, largely drawn from the military and assigned to law enforcement, helped contain what appeared to be caused by maintenance, design or operational flaws.

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Center for Human Rights said the statement was “worrying because it is clear that the agency reproduces the military’s lack of transparency and excessive use of force.”

The subway accident has been a constant embarrassment for Sheinbaum, who is considered the likeliest candidate for López Obrador’s Morena party to succeed him in the 2024 election. Like the president, Sheinbaum has often attributed setbacks to a conservative conspiracy against her.

López Obrador was more specific, saying that guards would be there to prevent “provocations” or deliberate accidents.

“What we want is not to be psychotic, so that people don’t have to worry about accidents on the subway that could be provoked,” the president said.

“If they call it militarization or something, then we will be held accountable for it,” he said.

The most recent incident occurred on Saturday when two subway trains collided between stations, killing one person and injuring dozens. Local media reported that the section of the track had previously experienced signal problems.

In May 2021, a subway elevated section collapsed, killing 26 people and injuring nearly 100 others. An investigation has pinned the blame on construction defects, and 10 former officers have been charged with manslaughter, assault and property damage, but no one has been jailed.

Poor welding, lack of maintenance, antiquated electrical systems, and the city’s frequent earthquakes and soft soil conditions have all been blamed for problems with the subway in the past, but damage has never been cited as a cause.

But Sheinbaum said that in the past few days, there have been three “irregular” issues with subway cars or tracks, including a tire failure that “was just inspected.” .

Subway riders are skeptical about sending the National Guard into much of the underground subway system.

Manuel Alejandro, a supplier of clothing and sneakers who rides the subway almost every day, said, “The National Guard is not going to solve anything … It’s better to let the subway do regular maintenance.”

“It stopped a lot and the lights went out,” Alejandro said of the train. “Looks like they’re looking for an excuse.”

Tarcisio Montagno, a construction maintenance worker who has broadly supported López Obrador and his anti-poverty plans, said he believed politics had played a role in some of the criticism of the subway’s problems.

“They attacked the subway to discredit the government,” Montagno said, suggesting the president’s political opponents were interested in promoting the issue.

But he also acknowledged that the subway system is underfunded and poorly maintained. “Where did all the ticket money go?” he asked, noting that the train could take a long time to arrive.

Montagno agrees that the National Guard is not the answer.

“I don’t see any reason for the National Guard,” he said. “They’re there to defend the country, not to spy on you on the subway.”

The Mexico City subway system has 226.5 kilometers (141 miles) of track and 195 stations. It serves an average of 4.6 million passengers per day. With a fare equivalent to 25 cents and one of the cheapest subway systems in the world, it has suffered from budget constraints for years.

Technology publication The Rest of the World reported this week that current and former subway workers say the system’s communications network is so bad they have to rely on messaging apps on their phones to stay in touch with train operators and avoid accidents.

In 2021, a fire at the control center of the antiquated subway system killed one person, sent 32 to hospital and shut down half the subway lines in the city of 9 million residents. Some of the technology in the Control Center appears to be analog gear from the 70s.

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