Mexican Congress Approves Keeping Army in Police Work

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Congress has approved a constitutional reform that allows the armed forces to continue performing their national law enforcement duties until 2028.

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Putting soldiers on the streets to fight crime has long been seen as a stopgap measure to curb drug gang violence, and lawmakers previously said civilian police should take over those duties by 2024. .

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But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador supports relying on the military indefinitely because he sees the armed forces as more honest. The president has given the military more responsibilities than any Mexican leader in recent memory.

The reform backed by Lopez Obrador was passed by the lower house on Wednesday night and still needs to be approved by a majority of Mexico’s 32 state legislatures.

Most experts agree that Mexico needs better paid, trained and equipped civilian police. The Army and Marines were called in to assist local police forces in 2006 in the fight against the country’s well-armed drug cartels. Mexican state and municipal police are often corrupt, poorly trained and unprofessional.

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But Lopez Obrador relied almost exclusively on the military to enforce the law. He eliminated the civilian federal police and created the National Guard, which he now wants to entrust entirely to the Ministry of Defense.

Lopez Obrador has relied on the armed forces for everything from building infrastructure projects to running airports and trains.

The reform extending the military mandate also promises to restore some funding to improve state and local police forces, which Lopez Obrador cut shortly after taking office in December 2018.

However, a new measure – which has already been approved by the Senate – does not specify the amount of funding that will be provided to improve civilian policing, except that it cannot be less than the annual increase in funding provided to the army and National Guard.

In fact, under a bill passed by the lower house this week, much of that funding would come from the government confiscating national bank accounts if they have remained untouched for six years or more.

But on Thursday, Lopez Obrador said he opposed giving even that money to the police, saying « it should be for the disabled, the elderly, health care. »

Critics said the military was untrained in police work and did little investigation. The armed forces have been accused of human rights violations in the exercise of their policing functions.


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