In light of the arrest of former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos in the United States last week on drug trafficking charges, a non-governmental organization has urged the federal government to carry out an investigation into the armed forces.
The #SeguridadSinGuerra (Security without War) collective called on the federal Attorney General’s Office to conduct a probe into Cienfuegos’ conduct while he was chief of the army between 2012 and 2018 as well as “networks of corruption” within the military.
The NGO said in a statement that the investigation shouldn’t be limited to the accusations made by the United States government, recommending that it also include an examination of “the multiple human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces.”
The army and the navy have both been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings, including during the administration of President López Obrador.
Seguridad Sin Guerra (SSG) said that military personnel must not be allowed to participate in an investigation into the armed forces even if they are retired or on leave.
The collective also called on the federal government to put an end to the militarization of public security in Mexico, noting that December will mark the 14th anniversary of the armed forces carrying out tasks that “don’t correspond to them.”
Former president Felipe Calderón deployed the military to combat Mexico’s notorious drug cartels shortly after he took office in December 2006. More than 200,000 people were killed in the subsequent 12 years as Calderón’s successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, continued the so-called “war on drugs” strategy.
SSG said the current government has assigned “at least 14 civil tasks” to the military including public security, the construction of infrastructure, the operation of airports, the control of ports and the management of social programs.
It said the military has been assigned most of the roles without “serious civil controls” and clear rules of transparency and accountability being implemented. The military has, however, received “vast budget resources,” the collective said.
President López Obrador, who signed a decree in May that ensures that the military will continue to carry out public security tasks until the final year of his six-year term, has repeatedly justified his government’s use of the army for such tasks because it’s an “institution in which there is no corruption,” SSG said.
However, the arrest of Cienfuegos is a clear sign that “corruption is a serious problem in the Mexican army,” the collective said.
It said that the simple fact that there is an investigation against General Cienfuegos “is the most resounding call to attention about the irresponsibility of continuing with the militarization of government functions.”
The most responsible thing to do, SSG added, “would be to respect the Constitution and put a pause on the militarization process” until an investigation determines the full extent of corruption within the armed forces.
Later in its statement, the collective noted that the Constitution restricts the military in times of peace to tasks of a military, rather than public security, nature.
It also called for an end to “opaque economic empowerment” of the armed forces, including the awarding of direct contracts to the military despite its “history of irregularities” as a contractor.
SSG concluded that peace cannot be restored while “corruption, impunity and militarization continue to eat away at our institutions.”
Mexico is on track to record its most violent year on record in 2020, according to homicide statistics for the first eight months of the year.
There were 23,471 homicides during the period, a 1.5% increase compared to the same period of 2019, which was the most violent year on record in Mexico.
Mexico News Daily