In a bid to get a grip on the organized criminal presence at Mexico's 103 ports, the Mexican Marines took control of the country's ports Saturday after a hiatus of 41 years.
The move will shift all security functions to the Navy Secretariat, who will be in charge of authorizing the arrival and departure of all ships as well as the inspection and certification of domestic and foreign-flagged vessels. The Secretariat of Communications and Transportation will retain control of the port's economic operations.
The Marines had previously controlled ports from 1821 to 1977, before President Jose Lopez Portillo introduced reforms shifting the control to the Communications and Transportation Secretariat.
The ports have long been criticized as bustling venues for the transportation of illicit products such as drugs, weapons and other forms of contraband, as well as human trafficking, with organized crime groups having a presence there for as long as 25 years, according to Navy Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz.
Pacific maritime trafficking routes are also allegedly the most lucrative routes for drug traffickers, with Colima’s Manzanillo port and Michoacan's Lazaro Cardenas port serving as major points of transportation for cocaine and marijuana last year, according to Mexican Navy seizure records. According to statistics, the two ports accounted for a sixth of all drug seizures in the country, with 13 tons of cocaine seized at the ports alone out of 26 total drug seizures.
The traffic emanating from the ports is allegedly moved by the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation, who have drastically expanded across the country as the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel, formerly led by famed cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has waned.
However, analysts are skeptical about militarization serving as a solution to the country's long-running struggle with organized criminal gangs, many of which have infiltrated Mexican state security bodies. While the Marines have a high level of trust among the people of Mexico, like other security forces in the country it hasn't been immune to allegations of widespread corruptions.