Photo: Diego González/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

Following the announcement of Mexico’s military being bestowed full control over Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) pet project Tren Maya, including all of its profits, concerns have been raised about the extent of the military’s grasp over the country.

The military currently handles 27 areas that are civilian in nature. 

Three days after the Tren Maya announcement, AMLO revealed the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) would take the reins on yet another train project, this time, the planned Tren del Istmo, alongside the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca.

“It is perfect that (Tren Maya) is an award to the armed forces,” said general director of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur) Rogelio Jiménez Pons at the time. “If we have a long-term nationalist vision of heritage, that this is a business, but of the state, we are going to try to make this a business for the benefit of the greatest number of Mexicans, what better way than the Army to take care of this business? It guarantees us many things, and particularly that it is not privatized.”

But many outside of AMLO’s government, unlike Jiménez Pons, are not so sure about the move.

“This idea of ​​turning the Army into a business actor is lousy,” security expert Alejandro Hope told El Universal. “It does not have an economic rationale and its political logic is frankly dangerous for the future of democracy in Mexico.”

Catalina Pérez Correa, researcher at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), pointed out that Mexico’s military has registered a 19.7 percent budget increase over the past year, indicating an increase in power over civil projects allocated to the nation’s armed forces.

“There are already many indications that they’re removing more and more controls from the Secretariat of the Defense (Sedena), moving controls from the civil institutions to the Sedena, and at the same, time that the faculties and the budget that the military is receiving annually are growing and growing,” commented journalist Ana Paula Ordorica.

“It is worrying not only because of the way in which the role of the Armed Forces in the country is being distorted, but also because there are already certain business interests that are being created,” continued Ordorica.

Since López Obrador assumed office in 2018, Mexico’s military has seen its influence increase in many areas of construction outside of the aforementioned trains, such as oversight of the construction of the controversial Santa Lucía Airport, the building of 2,700 branches of Banco de Bienestar and the creation of military barracks all across the nation.

Mexico’s military branch was also put in charge of ports and customs, the distribution of textbooks and social resources, and recently given power over the country’s mass coronavirus vaccination rollout via the contentious vaccine brigade program, totaling to control over 27 formerly civilian functions.

…March 22, 2021

 

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