PBI-Mexico and accompanied defenders comment on the National Guard and the impact of militarization on human rights
Had it not been for the pandemic, Peace Brigades International-Canada would have been able to host Javier Martínez Hernández, the legal coordinator for the Saltillo Migrant Shelter, on an advocacy tour to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
One of the issues he may have addressed is the role now being played by the National Guard in Mexico, an issue the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has also monitored.
This issue was in the news this week.
On May 11, The Guardian reported, “Human rights groups in Mexico have expressed disquiet over a presidential decree expanding the role of the armed forces in public security.”
“The decree, published on Monday by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, demonstrates an ongoing dependency on the army and navy for public security work – even though soldiers and marines have been frequently accused of human rights violations.”
“The decree perpetuates the practice of deploying Mexico’s armed forces for policing duties as the country’s homicide rate races to new records.”
The article also quotes Santiago Aguirre, the director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre in Mexico City, who comments, “In effect, the army and navy are going to be handling police duties until 2024.”
López Obrador (AMLO) became the President of Mexico in December 2018, Mexico’s national legislature voted to approve the formation of the National Guard in February 2019, and the National Guard was formally established on June 30, 2019.
In its January 2019 commentary Weighing up the new government, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project noted:
“Militarisation in Mexico continues to concern both Mexican and International civil society. Since the government of Felipe Calderón, the ‘War against drugs’ has resulted in a drastic increase in violence in the country with very high numbers of human rights violations. The organisations that PBI accompanies link this militarised strategy with the human rights crisis the country is still in. In this framework, the proposal of a National Guard, by AMLO’s government, is a serious concern to human rights organisations.”
In its February 2019 article The Alvarado Case: militarisation continues to threaten human rights, PBI-Mexico further noted:
“In a context of debates and proposals in Mexico around the conformation of a National Guard in charge of pubic security, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) published it´s sentence in the Alvarado Case on 28th November 2018, an emblematic case of forced disappearances caused by the context of militarisation, that happened in 2009 in the State of Chihuahua.”
And in January 2020, PBI-Mexico interviewed Yésica Sánchez Maya, a feminist lawyer and the joint director of Consorcio Oaxaca.
In response to PBI’s question about the National Guard, she commented, “Our main concern are the impacts that the arrival of military bodies have on territories. Problems that have been extensively documented in Oaxaca. We also don’t know about the existence of control protocols nor clear and precise sanctions. It’s a military body with another name, it’s the army with another name, and yes that does concern us.”
The National Guard’s first deployment was to Mexico’s borders. Reuters reported that 15,000 soldiers and National Guard were deployed on its northern border and 6,500 members of the security forces were sent to Mexico’s southern border area with Guatemala.
In March 2020, PBI-Mexico posted an advocacy tour video that featured interviews with staff from the Saltillo Migrant Shelter. (Unfortunately, as noted above, the planned tour to Canada that same month had to be postponed due to the pandemic.)
In that video, Jose Luis Manzo Ramirez, the humanitarian care coordinator for the shelter, comments that this deployment of the National Guard happened “in exchange for the US not increasing tariffs on certain products.”
Also, in the video, the shelter’s legal coordinator Javier Martínez Hernández says, “The National Guard started coming here to Casa Migrante.”
In July 2019, El Pais reported, “The Saltillo Migrant House has denounced the harassment that it has suffered in the last week by elements of the National Guard and the municipal police of this city in the State of Coahuila, in northern Mexico.”
That article adds:
“A video replicated thousands of times on social networks shows National Guard officers withdraw from the refuge in Saltillo, after [Alberto Xicoténcatl, director of this shelter] warned them that they were committing an illegal act. According to article 76 of the Mexican Migration Law, the authorities cannot carry out verification visits to places where there are people housed by civil society organizations and establish a radius of five kilometers of neutrality.”
The 46-second video of that encounter can be seen at La Guardia Nacional hace verificación en la puerta de la Casa del Migrante de Saltillo.