By MARK LORENZANA
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies — whose majority bloc consists of members of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — approved on the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 14, a proposal to use the Armed Forces for public security tasks until 2028.
Yolanda de la Torre, a deputy of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), originally drafted the proposal, which PRI President Alejandro Moreno promptly supported. This led to the fracturing of the Va Por México coalition, which consists of the PRI, the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
PAN and PRD leaders Marko Cortés and Jesús Zambrano have both expressed concerns about the proposal worsening the already increasing militarization in the country, and have instead pushed for the Armed Forces to return to their barracks in 2024, rather than extending their presence on the streets for four more years.
The recent problems within the Va Por México coalition, brought about by the PRI proposal, came after its three leaders — Moreno, Cortés and Zambrano — had vowed in August to strengthen their alliance for the upcoming 2023 local public elections and the 2024 Mexican general elections against Morena. At that time, the Va Por México coalition released a joint statement, and said that “the unity of the Va por México coalition is firm and solid.”
During the debates in the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, PRD Deputy Jesús Alberto Velázquez said that only dictators militarize the country, and questioned López Obrador’s security strategy.
“What are we going to gain by adding 10 more years of the Army to the streets?” Velázquez asked. “It’s been three years, and we haven’t made any progress.”
Morena Deputy Andrea Chávez, without alluding to the PRI, said that she “admires some members of the opposition” who did not resort to ”cheap politics” in the issue of public security.
“I want to make a political distinction between two different ways of understanding the opposition, because today, in this Chamber of Deputies, there are those who decided not to play cheap politics with the safety and lives of Mexican citizens, and that is something to be thankful for,” Chávez said. “This is a step forward in the construction of peace, justice and reparation. This is the time to claim life.”
Meanwhile, for his part, PAN Deputy and President of the Chamber of Deputies Santiago Creel had warned — before the vote — that the extension of military presence in the streets would be “very serious.”
He said that the presence of the Armed Forces on the streets is unconstitutional, as it is defined in the Mexican Constitution that the military should only be used for security tasks “only in an extraordinary situation, in a regulated manner, subordinated to a civilian command, in a complementary and supervised manner.”
In an interview with Mexican daily newspaper El Universal, Creel said that expanding the influence of the military on the streets is not the solution to the problem of insecurity in the country.
“It is not the answer to insecurity. What is being extended is the unconstitutional action of the Armed Forces, a security strategy that has been unsuccessful, and has generated almost 140,000 deaths from violent homicides and 40,000 disappearances. This is very serious,” Creel said.
“It will not only have consequences in terms of human rights, but also to the economy, in our relations with the outside world due to non-compliance to international treaties, and in the desire of any family to live with tranquility and peace. This extension of the Army alters the peace.”
On the fracturing of the Va Por México coalition, Creel said that he was initially surprised that the proposal came from the PRI caucus.
“When I was informed of the PRI initiative, I thought that Deputy De la Torre had only presented it in her own personal capacity,” Creel said. “But later I realized that it was something that was endorsed by the party leadership. The issue represents a very complex dilemma for the PAN. On the one hand, we want the coalition to continue. But on the other hand, we cannot let a breach of this nature pass. The three parties originally agreed to non-militarization. We consider it serious that this proposal has been made.”