By MARK LORENZANA
Close to a thousand current and former members of Mexico’s military, their family members and supporters marched on Sunday, March 12, from Mexico City’s Angel of Independence Monument to the capital’s central plaza Zócalo in defense of the soldiers who had been detained and are under investigation by the Secretariat of Defense (Sedena) for alleged extrajudicial killings of five youths that took place in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on Feb. 26.
The group arrived at the Zócalo around 11 a.m., without incident.
Similar marches reportedly took place in several states throughout Mexico, including Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Baja California, Guerrero, Durango, Nuevo León, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Jalisco and Puebla.
Shortly after the deaths of the youths in Tamaulipas, the country’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) announced that it will investigate the case.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) had already warned during his daily morning press conference on Friday, March 10, that several marches throughout Mexico in support of the Mexican Army would take place on Sunday.
“I want to take this opportunity to say that on several social media networks, they are organizing and calling for a march, and citizens are supposedly going to demonstrate in favor of the Army,” López Obrador said. “For me the purpose of the march is not fair, not healthy, which is supposedly to defend the Army after the killings in Tamaulipas.”
AMLO said that the organizers of the march are against the investigation of the soldiers involved in the massacre of the five youths. After the killings, López Obrador announced that in the event that those responsible are found guilty, “they will be punished.”
One of the organizers of the march in Mexico City, Rosalio López, a retired second lieutenant from the Mexican Army, demanded “respect for the human rights of the military.”
He pointed out that if AMLO did not want soldiers to act and protect the people, the president should not give them weapons.
“Give them a comb and give them scissors instead, so they can cut hair; don’t give them weapons,” López said. “You are the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, you should look out for the interests of the people, of the Mexican Army, and you are not doing it. You are supposed to prepare them for war, but then you cross your arms.”
Demonstrators held signs that read, “Free our soldiers. You will no longer have my vote,” “In memory of the soldiers who died waiting for a firing order that never came” and “I respect the Mexican Army. Free the detained soldiers.”
According to the CNDH in a report, more than a thousand complaints were lodged against Mexico’s Armed Forces and the National Guard (GN) in 2022. There were 577 complaints against the GN and 428 against the Sedena.
Among the complaints against the GN, detailed the CNDH report, allegedly include seven murders, three forced disappearances, 16 cases of torture, 28 incidents of inhuman treatment and 43 arbitrary detentions.
On the other hand, the complaints filed against the Sedena purportedly include one murder, 38 arbitrary detentions, nine cases of torture and 19 incidents of inhuman treatment.
If the military personnel are charged with the deaths of the youths in Tamaulipas, under Mexican law they must be tried in a civil, not a military, court.