Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Lawmakers approve bill that regulates activities of foreign agents in Mexico

The lower house of Congress approved legislation on Tuesday that regulates the activities of foreign agents in Mexico, removes their diplomatic immunity and allows for their expulsion from the country.

Passed by the Senate last week, the National Security Law reform attracted the support of 329 deputies while just 98 opposed it. The legislation was subsequently sent to President López Obrador for promulgation.

While it refers to foreign agents in general, the legislation is seen as being aimed primarily at United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who have long operated in Mexico.

Outgoing United States Attorney General William Barr has warned that the legislation would “only benefit the violent transnational criminal organizations and other criminals that we are jointly fighting,” making citizens of Mexico and the U.S. “less safe.”

López Obrador has defended it, saying that it affirms Mexico’s sovereignty and “puts things in order” with regard to the regulation of cooperation with foreign agents.

The legislation states that those agents must share information they gather here with Mexican authorities. They will be required to provide monthly reports of their activities to the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Security.

The law also stipulates that foreign agents will not have any immunity should they commit a crime or carry out an activity that corresponds exclusively to local security forces.

“Although according to international law they will have functional immunity if they stick to exercising consular functions, if they commit crimes they will be subjected to Mexican justice,” said Rocío Barrera, a Morena party deputy.

“They won’t have any immunity if they enter our country without being accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she added.

Adriana Dávila, a deputy with the National Action Party, which opposed the legislation, described the law as a unilateral approach to multilateral threats such as organized crime, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering and terrorism.

She said that removing foreign agents’ diplomatic immunity and making them subject to trial in Mexican courts could result in an “international conflict with serious consequences.”

The legislation also stipulates that Mexican authorities will at at all times monitor the activities of foreign agents to ensure that they are complying with Mexican legal obligations and those derived from international security agreements to which Mexico is party.

One example is the Mérida Initiative, a 12-year-old security cooperation agreement between Mexico, the United States and Central American countries.

The legislation says that if a foreign agent, “in the opinion of Mexican authorities,” violates “general and specific provisions” applicable to him, “the government of Mexico will request his withdrawal from the government of the accrediting state.”

It also says that foreign agents in Mexico can only carry weapons that have been authorized by the Mexican Ministry of Defense. They will be prohibited from acting unilaterally to make arrests or raid private property.

Mexican officials will have to get permission from a new security panel to meet with foreign agents and will be required to promptly provide details of what they discussed to the Foreign Affairs and Security ministries.

Ioan Grillo, a veteran drug war journalist based in Mexico, said in a video posted to his YouTube channel that the legislation is a “real big, game-changing law.”

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“[It] really alters how the DEA has done business here in Mexico for almost 50 years,” he said, adding that it will “really restrict what American agents can achieve here in Mexico.”

After noting that there is widespread agreement that Mexican security forces are “extremely corrupt,” Grillo said that under the new law “any information about drug traffickers and what the [foreign] agents are going after goes to the Mexican federal government government,” adding that the information could “slip out and these people could perhaps escape capture that way.”

Grillo and other observers say the legislation is retaliation for the United States’ arrest in October of former army general Salvador Cienfuegos on drug trafficking charges. After being lobbied by Mexican authorities, who complained about not being informed about the plan to arrest the ex-defense minister, the U.S. in November surprisingly agreed to drop charges against Cienfuegos and send him back to Mexico even though he is not currently accused of any wrongdoing here.

Alejandro Hope, a Mexican security analyst, told The New York Times that the legislation is a symbolic effort to reassert Mexican sovereignty before Joe Biden assumes the United States presidency in January.

“They’re scared of the transition in the United States. They want to send a message that there are tools on this side” of the border,” he said.

In a congratulatory letter sent to Biden on Monday, López Obrador included a caution about Mexico’s support for non-intervention in the affairs of foreign countries, writing, “we are certain that with you as president of the United States it will be possible to continue applying” the principle.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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