MEXICO CITY, June 25 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday the country's new militarized National Guard police force could have committed "excesses" by detaining migrant women close to the U.S. border, and that they had not been instructed to do so.
Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign citizens leaving the country for the United States.
Lopez Obrador faced repeated questions at a news conference on Tuesday about photographs that emerged last week of the National Guard catching Central American and Cuban women in Ciudad Juarez, which border El Paso, Texas.
The photographs showed National Guard members, some armed with rifles, chasing female migrants and detaining them on the Mexican side of the border. Lopez Obrador said they had not been instructed to carry out such detentions.
"There could have been these excesses, but the instruction for everybody is to respect the human rights of migrants, and that will continue," he said.
Critics, including political allies of Lopez Obrador, say Mexico is doing too much to placate U.S. President Donald Trump, after an agreement to stave off a tariff threat that has led to a deployment of more than 20,000 National Guard and soldiers to contain a surge in migration from Central America and beyond.
Mexico's army chief said on Monday that 15,000 of those forces had been deployed along the northern border with the United States.
The National Guard does have the legal right to detain migrants, Lopez Obrador said, but he explained that it had been not instructed to do so at the northern border.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence praised Mexico on Tuesday for "keeping its promise" and sending 15,000 troops to border to help with crisis.
"Mexico continues to do more than Congressional Dems to secure our border, and its time for them to STEP UP!," he said.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Bell)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.