By MARK LORENZANA
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved on Wednesday, Feb. 8, the issuance of the Mexican Airspace Protection Law with 263 votes in favor, 26 against and 195 abstentions.
As a result, the Mexican Army will now essentially control the entire aeronautical operation chain in the country: The military has been building new airports and managing them, in addition to policing customs. It will soon operate a government airline, and will now police Mexico’s national airspace, as well as coordinate the operation and services of traffic, information and security of air navigation.
Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), which will head the National Center for Surveillance and Protection of Airspace, will coordinate actions to protect Mexican airspace against threats and those related to transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, arms and connections trafficking, and even corruption.
The law was heavily promoted by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO); he sent the initiative to Congress in April of last year, and there was never really any doubt that it would be approved. Majority of the votes in favor of the law came from deputies of López Obrador’s own ruling party, the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena). The centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) mostly abstained from voting.
PAN Deputy Ricardo Villarreal, president of the National Defense Commission, took the podium to defend the law, although he abstained from voting.
“Every 76 hours a security alert is reported for activities involving aircraft owned by organized crime groups,” Villarreal said.
Deputies from the Citizen’s Movement Party (MC) voted against the law, noting that it is a new measure that gives more power to the Mexican Armed Forces.
“We are not against the Armed Forces of our country, quite the contrary. What we do not agree on in the orange bench (Citizen’s Movement Party) is that this institution is disrespected,” MC Deputy Sergio Barrera said. “They are militarizing Mexican airspace and are duplicating powers already regulated in the Civil Aviation Law.”
For her part, Morena’s Rosangela Amairany Peña Escalante defended the new law, saying that a new aeronautical model is necessary, consistent with security strategy. For this reason, she mentioned that the participation of the Sedena is necessary, since in 2019 U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that 118 tons of cocaine entered the United States by air.
“The Morena parliamentary group has no doubt about the importance of strengthening the security of the national airspace, and with this we will avoid irreparable accidents, we will avoid fighting organized crime,” Peña Escalante said. “No more irregular airstrips and clandestine runways, no more false licenses and no more improper use of airport infrastructure. Who else but the Armed Forces could guarantee the security of the airspace?”