The federal government will once again ask citizens to have their say about an issue of national importance — this time with a public-security-themed “participative exercise” to be held early next year.
The choice of language is meant to distinguish the upcoming exercise on January 22 from a consulta (essentially, a referendum), something which President López Obrador said at a press conference on Tuesday isn’t allowed by the constitution when dealing with matters of national security. “… we have to act within the framework of legality,” he said.
In the nationwide survey, citizens will have the opportunity to respond to three questions about the National Guard and the armed forces, Interior Minister Adán Augusto López Hernández said at the Tuesday news conference:
- “Do you agree with the creation of the National Guard and [approve of] its performance to date?”
- “Do you think the armed forces – the army and the navy – should continue doing public security work until 2028 or return to their barracks in March of 2024?”
- “What is your opinion of the National Guard becoming part of the Ministry of National Defense, or [should it] answer to the Interior Ministry or the Security Ministry?”
The lower house of Congress recently approved a constitutional bill authorizing the use of the military for public security tasks until 2028 – as the federal government has advocated – but the proposal appears unlikely to pass the Senate.
Government critics have questioned the legality and reliability of consultas and other such citizen surveys, and assert that the president only holds them to promote his own political interests. Opponents have similarly criticized this planned exercise, with federal deputy and president of the Chamber of Deputies’ directive board Santiago Creel recently calling the January 22 poll “undue interference” by President Lopez Obrador in the legislature’s role in deciding such a matter.
If a majority of citizens vote in favor of continuing to use the military for public security until 2028, the government could use the result to pressure Congress to legislate accordingly. López Obrador is a devotee of direct democracy, having held numerous public consultations/referendums in recent years, including ones on the previous government’s Mexico City airport project, a Mexicali brewery project, the Maya Train, past presidents and even his own right to rule.
López Hernández said that the aim of the upcoming exercise is for citizens to have the opportunity to have their say on the National Guard and military at “public opinion reception points” in all 68,989 “electoral sections” across the country.
The Interior Ministry and a citizens’ committee will be responsible for the organization of the “participative exercise,” he said, also noting that people will also be able to participate via an online portal set up for the purpose between January 16 and 22. “This option could even be used by Mexicans who live abroad,” he said.
The “definitive results” of the exercise will be announced on January 24, he told reporters. He also said that a promotion campaign for the survey will begin on October 10 and run until January 16.
“As the president has said, it’s not a binding exercise,” López Hernández said.
“It won’t be binding,” Lopez Obrador said at the beginning of the press conference, “but what matters to us is that participatory democracy advances because democracy means people power.”
“Demos is people, kratos is power, power of the people. And in democracy, the people are in charge and cannot be ignored,” he said.
Mexico News Daily