On the night of September 15, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) presided over the traditional independence ceremony from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City. After two years of COVID restrictions that had left the central square, or Zocalostrangely sorry for the two previous editions, this year nibble – the cry that reenacts revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo’s call for independence from the bell tower of the city of Dolores Hidalgo in 1810 – was packed with a crowd of one hundred and forty thousand people enjoying a concert by the iconic , multiple Grammy-winning band Los Tigres del Norte. In addition to the standard list of ¡Long live! (“Long Live…”) for the National Hero Hall of Fame, the President ostensibly pulled out the script to add three ¡Mueras! to the list of proclamations: “Death to corruption! Death to classism! Death to racism!
The following day, on the occasion of the annual civil-military parade, AMLO devoted his entire speech to foreign affairs. In front of a remarkable assemblage of guests – which included the former presidents of Uruguay and Bolivia, José Mujica and Evo Morales, respectively; father and brother of Julian Assange; the daughter of Che Guevara; and the family of labor organizer and farmworker advocate Cesar Chavez (the family of Martin Luther King III had attended the ceremony the night before) – the president presented a plan for an international peace commission intervene immediately in the Ukrainian conflict with the aim of bringing everyone to the negotiating table.
While condemning the invasion itself, he did not spare his criticism of those whose action, and inaction, allowed the situation to reach its current state.
Interest groups in positions of power in governments and the economy have gone to great lengths to pursue policies against armed conflict. And once that mistake was made, instead of putting things right, they chose to dig deeper. . . . This is how the Russian war against Ukraine came about, as well as the subsequent adoption of sanctions and the massive shipment of arms to the invaded country, actions which brought an additional dose of irrationality to the ongoing conflict.
Sanctions and arms shipments, he added, “have only worsened the conflict; produce greater suffering for victims, their families and refugees; and exacerbate the food and energy shortages that have spurred global inflation, phenomena that together harm the vast majority of the world’s people.
Drawing on its mid-pandemic criticism of the United Nations as a “wallflower” in the face of global crises, AMLO noted that the organization had remained inactive, ineffective and “reduced to a purely ornamental role”. Worse still, he noted, has been the conduct of major powers who, “explicitly or silently, have positioned themselves solely to serve their hegemonic interests. Thus, one cannot avoid the suspicion that, however perverse or unbelievable it may seem, this war, like many others, is fueled by the interests of the arms industry.
The speech was significant in that it set out a decidedly progressive position on the conflict, a position shared by the vast majority of non-aligned nations and countries of the South. And by avoiding flashy rhetoric in favor of a sober analysis of the political and economic interests that benefit from prolonging the war, AMLO avoided the reflexive tar of his plan as a “Russian plot” (which did not prevent some conspirators experts And one advise President Volodymyr Zelensky to try). While leaders on the Anglophone left struggled to find similar clarity on the issue, it served as a potentially instructive moment.
The president’s timely analysis of military operations in Ukraine comes at a time of fierce debate over the role of the military in the country. On September 9, AMLO signed into law a bill that places the National Guard – the militarized police force created in the first months of his administration in 2019 – under the operational and administrative control of the Secretary of Defense.
This decision is important not only because of the nature of the institution itself, but also because the Ministry of National Defense in Mexico has traditionally been led, not by a civilian, but by an active duty military officer. Meanwhile, Congress is currently debating a constitutional amendment, tabled by the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) but backed by the government, that would extend the armed forces’ involvement in internal security matters from 2024. , when it is currently scheduled. expire, until 2028.
From a purely political point of view, the proposals represent a masterstroke that split the opposition Va por México coalition in two. On the one hand, they sparked a predictable display of wailing from the National Action Party (PAN) which, after bloodying the country through Felipe Calderón’s misguided and fatally compromised war on drugs, is now attempting fancifully to rebrand themselves as opponents of “militarization”.
But that did not stop their PRI partners from defecting to vote for the constitutional amendment, at least in the lower house, nor did it stop a number of opposition governors from s oppose their own parties in Congress by coming out in favor of it.
As the proponents of the proposals repeatedly point out, the new law does not integrate the National Guard into the army, as is often incorrectly reported, but establishes it as a separate institution within the Ministry of Defense, with its own code, command structure and limitations: for example, the use of proportional force and the prohibition on the use of military grade weapons.
While the vast majority of the original members of the guard were “borrowed” from the army, the latter will eventually be entirely made up of recruits trained exclusively in the maintenance of order and capable of fully taking charge of internal security issues. This will allow the army to be reduced by almost half. Indeed, despite the uproar from organizations such as the European Parliament over the militarized police in Mexico, several of its member states maintain very similar structures, including France (National Gendarmerie), Spain (Guardia Civil) and Italy (Carabinieri).
That said, there is something deeply troubling about Mexico’s center-left pushing for the consolidation and expansion of the military’s role in homeland security after taking to the streets in previous administrations to protest it. Yes, AMLO’s philosophy is fundamentally different as it seeks to tackle the root causes of violence – poverty, corruption, injustice, inequality – instead of trying to contain social unrest through Brute force.
Yes, his approach to the armed forces is different from his predecessors Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, who each attempted to legislate to suppress individual freedoms and effectively create states of exception. Yes, homicides are down – somewhat (and non-violent crimes are down again).
But for a president who has repeatedly said you can’t fight fire with fire, his administration has bolstered the nation’s firepower with budget increases, construction contracts and control or custody of strategic areas, such as ports and customs, PEMEX facilities, the Maya train in the Yucatán Peninsula, and the transisthmic industrial corridor linking the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Despite protests from AMLO that he changed his mind about using the military in light of the security problem he inherited, a WikiLeaks cable reveals that as early as his first presidential campaign in 2006, he had considered giving “more power and authority to the military to counter – narcotics operations. Not only was the military the least corrupt of Mexican agencies, he argued, but strengthening its authority would clip the wings of the attorney general’s office, which he considered “too corrupt to run the war.” fight against narcotics”.
However, jumping to the conclusion that AMLO is simply in the “pocket” of the military would be a mistake. In the past few months alone, the president inaugurated a truth commission to investigate crimes committed by the military during the 1970s dirty war against dissidents. The commission will have unprecedented access to military archives and facilities, including infamous former detention and torture centers such as Campo Militar, or military field, No. 1 in Mexico City.
Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of the forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in 2015, the government recently announced the arrest of General José Rodríguez Pérez, then commander of the 27th battalion in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, where the crimes took place (former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam was also arrested in August and remains in custody). Warrants also exist for twenty other members of the army. While this is far from sufficient, it hardly suggests an army acting with the near total impunity of the past.
The question of public safety in Mexico is one that resists easy answers. Organized crime has amassed an array of weapons – the vast majority imported from the United States – that far exceeds anything standard police forces are capable of handling. The capture or assassination of cartel leaders led to a “balkanization” into smaller, more fluid, and harder to apprehend groups.
Cartels, for their part, have diversified into lucrative secondary markets, such as extortion, cyberattacks and export crops such as limes and avocados. The results of social programs will only be visible in the medium and long term, and only if they are sustained; it is naive to believe that areas where the only options available to young people for decades have been cartels, migration or starvation jobs will be overturned overnight by the offer of scholarships, apprenticeships or programs conservation.
The debate over drug legalization is nowhere to be found on the political radar; indeed, the MORENA-dominated Congress was unable to even pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, as required by a Supreme Court ruling. Meanwhile, the general public, long accustomed to oversights, abuse, violence and bribery-seeking from police forces at all levels, is hardly as alarmed by the use of armed forces for homeland security that elites living in comfortable communities might appreciate. be: according to a survey, 80% of respondents were “very” or “rather” in favor of the measure. If a referendum were held on the issue, as the president has proposed, he would likely win hands down.
This gives AMLO some breathing room. But it also creates the danger, as he enters the fifth year of his six-year term, that the current situation will become increasingly normalized. For his calls for peace to be fully heard on the world stage, López Obrador must find a path, however narrow and thorny, to greater peace at home.