Mexico's top military brass offer president public loyalty pledge

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes part in a military parade in celebration of the 109th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador received a pledge of loyalty from top military chiefs on Wednesday, three weeks after a report of a critical speech from an army general raised fears of dissent among the upper echelons of the country's armed forces.

The military's public show of support for Lopez Obrador comes amid heightened concern from Latin America's left about the role that pressure from the armed forces played in the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales ten days ago.

"We support your government's project with loyalty, professionalism and honesty. We are loyal and have profound respect for the presidential institution you represent," Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the head of the army and Lopez Obrador's hand-picked defense secretary, said at an event commemorating Mexico's 1910-1920 revolution.

Lopez Obrador took office late last year pledging to pacify the country with a security policy that deemphasizes armed confrontation, following years of military-led offensives against powerful drug cartels.

Late last month, Lopez Obrador denied there was widespread discontent within the military ranks after being asked about a speech by an army general to other top brass that reportedly blamed the president for polarizing the country and offending military leadership.

Lopez Obrador's government was rocked when cartel gunmen laid siege to the city of Culiacan on Oct. 17, forcing outmatched soldiers to release a son of jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after he was briefly detained.

The incident marked the biggest challenge to the president's security strategy to date and provoked wide-spread criticism of the military's capitulation to Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, which was ordered by Lopez Obrador's security cabinet.

"Today's Mexico worries us... As Mexicans, we feel disrespected and as soldiers we're offended," said General Carlos Gaytan, a veteran commander who has served in several high-profile posts, according to the transcript of an Oct. 22 speech published by newspaper La Jornada.

Gaytan has not commented on the report.

Morales stepped down in Bolivia earlier this month under pressure from protesters, civil groups, security forces and allies, as well as an international audit that found irregularities in an election count and cast doubt on his announced outright victory.

Mexico has since granted Morales political asylum.

"Let us always remember that we are men and women at the nation's service. Always loyal to Mexico's president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, always loyal to Mr. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and to the people of Mexico and their democratically expressed will," said Jose Rafael Ojeda, the head of Mexico's navy.


(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)