Hundreds of Mexican federal police were in open revolt Wednesday against plans to force them into the newly formed National Guard.
Police at a command centre in the capital's Iztapalapa borough say that their seniority, rank and benefits are not being recognised within the National Guard, which is ostensibly a civilian security force, but whose hierarchy is heavily military.
National Guard Commandant Patricia Rosalinda Trujillo Mariel, one of the few leaders of the new force who came from the federal police, was jostled by the crowd as she came to meet the protesters and asked them to put forward representatives to talk.
"I am federal police, I respect the principles of my institution and I want to have a dialogue," Trujillo shouted over the crowd.
One police representative who stepped forward without identifying himself said the protesters were waiting for the arrival of Alfonso Durazo, Mexico's security secretary, who oversees the federal police and National Guard. Trujillo said a delegation of protesters would be taken to speak with Durazo.
Police officer Alejandra Baez Villanueva said the police need their jobs to support their families.
"We aren't protesting, we're just demanding our rights," she said. "We just want them to respect our seniority, because for (members of) the army and the navy they respect it and for us as federal police they don't."
The protest came as the government was officially starting to deploy the National Guard to several states to fight crime and control immigration.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has bet Mexico's future security on the National Guard, which is initially formed by military police and federal police but is also signing up new recruits. He has been consistently dismissive of the federal police, characterizing it as a failed security force, and gave military officers the bulk of the responsibility for the National Guard.
Last week, the newly appointed head of the National Migration Institute apologised for calling some federal police officers "fifi" or posh when they complained about difficult conditions in the effort to reduce the flow of migration through Mexico toward the United States
Mexico sent 6,000 guard members to the southern border to assist in that effort and it has sent thousands more to its northern border to deter illegal border crossings.
López Obrador said Wednesday that no federal police would be fired and that those who qualified for the National Guard would maintain their salary and benefits. He said that joining the new force would be voluntary, but was vague about what would happen to federal police who did not.
Critics say the immigration enforcement mission could distract the force from its primary responsibility of getting a handle on violent crime.
Mexico is experiencing the highest number of murders is at least 20 years, though the rate of the killings has stabilised in recent months. For years, Mexico has relied on the military to confront organised crime, in some cases even disbanding municipal police forces because they were thoroughly infiltrated.