Mexican cops told to slim down for National Guard

Mexican National Guard in Chiapas State, June 2019 Image copyright QUETZALLI BLANCO/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The National Guard is already patrolling border areas

A group of police officers wanting to join Mexico's new National Guard have been told to lose weight while they deal with the country's illegal migration crisis, according to press reports.

At least 625 federal police who failed to meet the Guard's physical requirements must staff National Immigration Institute checkpoints on the northern and southern borders for six months "or as long as the emergency lasts", El Financiero newspaper reports.

If the officers still don't make the grade, they will have to stay with immigration, try for the Federal Protection Service, or find themselves out of a a job, because the Federal Police will be merged into the National Guard at the end of June.

'Pays better than the police'

The story comes from a leaked audio recording of Federal Police commander Raúl Ávila Ibarra, obtained by El Universal newspaper, trying to convince a group of officers to join the immigration service, with the enticement that it is desperate for extra professional help and "pays more than the police".

"Those of us who are too heavy will have six months to come up with a realistic plan to meet the requirements they've given us," Mr Ávila Ibarra is heard to say.

El Financiero says National Guard applicants must have a body mass index of less than 28, no body piercings, and tattoos must not be visible when wearing uniform.

A study by the National Agency of Statistics and Geography in 2017 found that 79% of the country's police officers were overweight or obese, the Mexico News Daily site reports.

You might also like:

But the immigration service option certainly hasn't worked out for everyone, as La Vanguardia daily reports officers complaining on social media about having to "sleep in the open and deal with whatever threats without firearms".

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador won Congressional approval for the new 60,000-strong National Guard earlier this year, fulfilling an election pledge to concentrate on fighting organised crime and general lawlessness.

But critics have complained that the force is being used instead to deal with the migration crisis, as people from elsewhere in Central America seek to get to the United States via Mexico.

Image copyright Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
Image caption Critics say the National Guard is being distracted from the task of fighting organised crime

Reporting by Martin Morgan

Next story: Vietnam architects campaign to save cathedral

Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.