Mexico makes permanent sweeping powers for military’s war on drugs

World Today

Mexico makes permanent sweeping powers for military's war on drugs

The military plays a central role in Mexico’s war on drugs, and for years the government has given them sweeping authority. Those powers were supposed to be temporary, but a new law will make them permanent.

As CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports, not everyone sees this as a good thing.

For more than 10 years, a main mission of Mexico’s armed forces has been to combat powerful drug trafficking organizations. But until now, the country has had no legal framework for allowing the armed forces to carry out the task.

Weeks before Mexico’s new Internal Security Law passed in the legislature, it received public support from the country’s top military leaders.

“The Armed Forces respectfully request, once again, our government move forward with this urgent law, which we insist, obligates government authorities in charge of security to defend the Mexican nation,” Mexico’s Minister of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos said.

The law, which took effect Friday, legalizes deployments of the Mexican Army and Marines to regions where drug-related violence is widespread.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon was the first to send large numbers of troops to fight drug traffickers back in late 2006. Since then, more than 200,000 people have been killed in the nation’s drug war, and more than 30,000 have gone missing.

Drug-related violence has also reached some of Mexico’s most important tourism resorts, including Acapulco, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas.

Some Mexico City residents are voicing their opposition to the law, calling it a step toward martial law.

By CGTN’s count, the number of protesters is in the hundreds; on Mexico City scale, it’s a micro protest. But still, they represent a large number of organizations and individuals who oppose this move by the Mexican government.

The United Nations and Mexico’s own National Civil Rights Commission are among those who oppose it, saying the measure blocks public oversight of military operations. Opponents also fear that the Mexican government will use the law to impose military crackdowns against legitimate political opposition.

“This law facilitates the government’s and army’s repression in a country were impunity is the catchword in terms of human rights,” one resident said. “It will make the situation much more serious.”

According to constitutional law expert Jorge Javier Romero Badillo, the government is institutionalizing a failed public policy.

“The deployment of the Armed Forces has not reduced drug violence, nor has it reduced crime or drug trafficking,” he said.

Despite such opposition, Mexico’s Constitution now lets the nation’s military do the job that police have until now failed to get done.