Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lower house of Congress passes militarization bill

The lower house of Congress has authorized the use of the military for public security tasks until 2028. 

 Just over two-thirds of the 500 deputies – 339 – voted in favor of a constitutional bill that seeks to extend the military’s involvement in public security by four years. The bill was approved by the Senate last week. 

Deputies with the ruling Morena party and its allies, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, supported the bill. 

The Chamber of Deputies already approved an earlier version of the proposed reform, but it was returned to the lower house after the Senate modified it.

Mexico's President López Obrador and Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejia Berdeja
President López Obrador presents at his Thursday press conference as Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejia Berdeja looks on. Presidencia de la República

Among the modifications added by the Senate are provisions that establish congressional oversight of the public security actions of the military and allow for the creation of a fund that will provide resources for the professionalization of municipal and state police forces.

Critics of the bill argue that it will only perpetuate a militarized security strategy that has failed to combat Mexico’s high levels of violent crimes since it was first implemented by former president Felipe Calderón in late 2006.  

President López Obrador said last month that the ongoing presence of the armed forces on the nation’s streets is essential to guarantee peace, even though he pledged before he took office to return soldiers to their barracks. He recently admitted he changed his mind on the matter once he realized the extent of the security problem he inherited. 

As the bill that passed the lower house of Congress late Wednesday seeks to change the constitution, it requires approval by a majority of state legislatures. López Obrador on Thursday urged state lawmakers to support the reform. 

“Hopefully the state congresses help us. … [The bill] was already approved in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. It just needs to be approved by half of state congresses plus one and it’s a constitutional reform,” he said.   

The president – who has relied on the armed forces for a wide range of nontraditional tasks – rejected claims that his government is further militarizing the country with this bill and another recently passed by Congress that transferred control of the National Guard to the Ministry of National Defense.  

He also accused members of previous governments – “the conservatives” – of hypocrisy. 

“What did the conservatives do with the army? They used it to repress. Without a constitutional foundation, in an illegal way and without respect for human rights, they used the army and the navy for public security tasks,” López Obrador said. 

“They’re complete hypocrites. Now that a constitutional reform is carried out and emphasis is placed on human rights, they’re throwing their arms up in horror.” 

With reports from El Financiero and El Universal 

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