Militarization, megaprojects and the June 2nd presidential election in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Demonstrators confronting armed military officials patrolling the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus megaproject. Photo by Carlos Beas.

As Mexico heads towards general elections to be held on June 2nd this year, we recall concerns raised by Peace Brigades International prior to the July 1, 2018 election.

In June 2018, PBI-United Kingdom commented in The Guardian:

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won that July 1, 2018 election and became the President of Mexico in December 2018.

In January 2019, PBI-Mexico commented: “The militarization of the country continues to be a concern for Mexican and international civil society. Since the government of Felipe Calderón [2006 to 2012], the ‘War on Drugs’ [launched on December 10, 2006] has resulted in a drastic increase in violence in the country with horrific numbers of human rights violations. The organizations that PBI accompanies link this military strategy to the human rights crisis in which the country still finds itself. In this context, the AMLO government’s proposal for a National Guard is of serious concern to human rights organizations.”

The National Guard

In September 2022, The Guardian reported:

Soon after taking office in December 2018, he [AMLO] created a new force, known as the national guard, to take over public security across the country. And then he successfully pushed his political party, and allied parties, to hand the control of the national guard over to the Mexican army.

The Mexican senate voted the measure into law earlier this month despite López Obrador promising the newly created force would remain under civilian control.

The national guard was meant to replace the disbanded federal police as a public security force. Now, analysts say placing the force under the control of the military is a final step in the militarization of public security in Mexico.

The move has sparked an outcry from human rights organizations who state that, rather than turn security over to the military, the government should instead reform state and local police forces.

Militarization and megaprojects

Then in September 2023, Avispa Midia reported:

The federal government has also assigned a growing list of other civilian tasks to the armed forces, through a series of administration and legislative actions and reforms.

These tasks include the construction of megaprojects, or the management of companies in charge of them, like the Maya Train, the Interoceanic Corridor, and airports. There are also plans to soon begin to operate a military airline. Military institutions also control ports and customs.

The [Washington Office on Latin America/WOLA] study [Militarized Transformation: Human Rights and Democratic Controls in a Context of Increasing Militarization in Mexico] warns that while their powers and authority are growing, the armed forces do not have effective civilian controls over their actions.

The Interoceanic Corridor

As noted above, the Interoceanic Corridor is a task assigned to the armed forces.

On July 27, 2023, PBI-Mexico tweeted: “PBI accompanies the observation mission in the Isthmus. It will continue to monitor the risk situation in which the indigenous peoples affected by the construction of the Interoceanic Corridor in their territory find themselves. Here we share the press release.”

The Observation Mission stated: “Among the authorities responsible for the human rights violations identified during the mission are the National Guard, the Navy, the Sedena [the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense], the State Police, the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation, municipal authorities and the Agrarian Attorney’s Office. Various companies, armed groups and local chieftains were also identified.”

PBI-Canada webinar

On September 21, 2023, PBI-Canada organized a webinar featuring Carlos Beas Torres of the Union of Indigenous Communities from the North of the Isthmus (UCIZONI), Margherita Forni of PBI-Mexico and Hannah Matthews of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) that discussed concerns about the Interoceanic Corridor megaproject, including the militarization of the project.

The 2024 election has begun

Mexico News Daily now reports: “The official campaign period for Mexico’s upcoming federal election began Friday [March 1], exactly 93 days before voters will go to the polls to elect a new president for the next six years.”

Where do the candidates stand on militarization?

The three leading candidates appear to be Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Xóchitl Gálvez and Jorge Álvarez Máynez. sets the context: “During AMLO’s government, the military adopted a preponderant role in the State, not only in that they had a greater presence in public security, but also in public administration by granting them the administration of airports such as the AIFA, the Mayan Train, construction works and companies.”

It then notes:

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo has been in favor of the Armed Forces continuing to carry out public security tasks, as well as other activities that the president has given them, considering that they did it well.

Xóchitl Gálvez has proposed returning respect to the Armed Forces and removing them from civilian activities, focusing on national security instead of public safety.

Jorge Álvarez Máynez has also been against the military carrying out civilian activities and public security tasks, although he has not made a concrete proposal on the issue of militarization.

We continue to follow this with interest.

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