Under Mexico's new National Guard, federal police officers fear they will lose pay and seniority benefits. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created the new agency to combat gang violence.
Officers of the Mexican federal police on Wednesday protested against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's newly created National Guard, citing threats of dismissal if they did not join.
Several hundred officers demonstrated to raise their concerns over being absorbed into the National Guard, which was formed this year to tackle gang violence.
Under the new scheme the officers believe they will face pay cuts and loss of seniority benefits claims the government has denied.
The National Guard will be built up using offices from the army, police and naval police to build an initial staff of around 70,000 people, with plans to eventually increase that number to 140,000.
At federal police headquarters and around Mexico City, groups of officers, their families, and their supporters held protests on Wednesday, ranging from street blockades in busy areas to protesting with signs with slogans such as "respect our abilities."
Calls for salary hikes
A petition signed by "federal police in favor of legality and justice" listed demands such as salary hikes, a union for the federal police and National Guard and sought evaluation by those with police experience, rather than military officers.
"They're aiming to keep their jobs, their salaries, their schedules, their bonuses and even their positions once they move on to the National Guard," Ivan Chavez, a lawyer representing a group of federal police, said in an interview on local radio.
The National Guard has also been sent to assist with migration duties at the southern and northern borders in a deal struck between Mexico and the United States in an attempt to curb record flows of migrants. However, this is not what the agency was initially intended for.
Obrador has also come under fire for naming a recently retired general to lead the new force, despite promising it would have a civilian command structure.
Government claims no violation of rights
At a news conference on Wednesday, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo assured police that "absolutely none of your rights will be violated," and that pay, benefits, seniority and rank would be respected under the National Guard, but the protesters remained unconvinced.
In a video posted to Twitter, President Obrador said no police officers had been dismissed and 10,000 people had transferred voluntarily to the National Guard.
Obrador suggested many of the protesters were officers who could not pass the vetting or physical tests, and that the federal police force had become "rotten" and "perverted."
He wrote on Twitter that the police were engaging in "mutiny," but it is not justified because "no police officer is being fired."
The interior ministry said the integration of the federal police into the National Guard would take up to 18 months.