Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Military law enforcement

Is the new law a threat to civilian control of the military in Mexico?

Mexico Strengthens Military’s Role in Drug War, Outraging Critics
Mexico’s Congress on Friday passed a law that strengthens the military’s role in fighting organized crime, defying an outcry from human rights groups, police experts and even United Nations officials who warned that the measure will lead to abuses.

The law, which President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to sign, sets up a legal framework to deploy soldiers in regions controlled by drug gangs…

[C]ritics say the new rules will vastly expand military authority without checks and balances and offers no exit strategy to cede eventual leadership of the campaign to combat drugs to an effective police force.

“This bill effectively displaces the Constitution,” said Alejandro Madrazo Lajous, a constitutional expert at the CIDE, a Mexico City university. “It allows the president to unilaterally militarize any part of the country for any time he considers necessary or adequate without any control either by congress or the judiciary.”

Unlike the rest of Latin America, where long military dictatorships have left indelible scars, Mexico has had civilian control over the armed forces for the past century as part of an unspoken agreement that allows officers latitude over the areas they command.

The drug war has disrupted that equilibrium, opening the military to charges of human rights abuses and rattling commanders who have asked the government to restore “order and sense” to their mission.

Since former President Felipe Calderón first sent troops to fight drug gangs at the end of 2006, more than 200,000 people have been killed in the drug war and 31,000 people have gone missing, according to official statistics.

The violence has surged as Mr. Peña Nieto begins his final year in office. This year has been the deadliest in two decades, and the government has yet to announce any plan to confront the violence…

Since the law was first presented in congress two weeks ago, there has been outpouring against it. Human rights groups united in opposition, pointing to the rise in abuses committed by the military in the drug war. The government’s National Human Rights Commission and its transparency institute have opposed it. Presidents of major universities have spoken out against it.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, and the United Nations special rapporteur on arbitrary executions, along with other United Nations experts, also raised concerns…

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