Last week, by a vote of 8 – 3, Mexico’s Supreme Court decided to uphold the legality of a constitutional reform which will allow for Mexican military personnel to continue performing police duties though 2028.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a key figure pushing the reform, was initially elected on a platform opposing militarization of domestic security. Deploying the military on the streets in a domestic security role has been common in Mexico for almost 20 years but was long viewed as a stopgap measure in the cartel-violence-ridden country. In 2019 Mexican legislators voted to take the military off the streets. That same year, Obrador formed the Mexican national guard (Guardia Nacional de Mexico) – a civilian-controlled paramilitary force integrating police forces from the army, navy and federal services. This force was initially meant to replace the military in their domestic police duties.
However, the President later pushed for moving the national guard under military control, repudiating his earlier campaign promises. “I changed my mind once I saw the problem they [the previous government] had left me with”, the president said in a conference earlier this year. He also strongly supported the constitutional reforms which underpin the domestic deployments of the Mexican armed forces.
This new push towards militarization saw strong opposition from politicians, segments of civil society and human rights groups worried about its potential impact on Mexico’s civil liberties. The military has been deployed in a domestic security role since 2006 and their deployments did not correlate with a decrease in crime or homicides. Moreover, the Mexican military was implicated in numerous civil rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrest.
Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of Mexicans continue to hold a positive view of the military. Corruption among Mexican police is extremely high and the military is generally seen as a more trustworthy alternative. Preventing the corruption of the national guard was one of the major justifications for the recent pushes for placing policing under military jurisdiction.