MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican Congress has approved a constitutional reform that will allow the armed forces to continue to carry out their domestic law enforcement duties until 2028.
Putting soldiers on the streets to fight crime has long been seen as an emergency measure to combat drug gang violence, and lawmakers had previously said civilian police should take over those duties by 2024.
But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador supports indefinitely relying on the military because he sees the armed forces as fairer. The president has given the military more responsibilities than any Mexican leader in recent history.
The reform, backed by López Obrador, was passed late Wednesday by the House of Commons and has yet to be approved by a majority of the 32 Mexican legislatures.
Most experts agree that Mexico needs better paid, trained and equipped civilian police. The military and marines were called in in 2006 to help local police fight the country’s well-armed drug cartels. Mexico’s state and municipal police are often corrupt, poorly trained and unprofessional.
But López Obrador relied almost exclusively on the military for law enforcement. He eliminated the civilian federal police and created the National Guard, which he now wants to turn over completely to Defense.
López Obrador has relied on the armed forces for everything from building infrastructure projects to running airports and trains.
The military mandate reform also promises to restore some funding for improving state and local police services, which López Obrador halted shortly after taking office in December 2018.
However, the new measure – which had already been approved by the Senate – does not specify how much funding will be provided to improve civilian policing, except that it cannot be less than the annual increase in funding given to the military and National Guard. given.
In fact, according to a bill passed by the lower house this week, much of that funding would come from the government seizing domestic bank accounts if they’ve been left untouched for six years or more.
But on Thursday, López Obrador said he was against even giving that money to the police because he said “it should be for the disabled, the elderly, healthcare.”
Critics have said the military is not trained for police work and does little research. The armed forces have been accused of human rights violations while performing law enforcement duties.
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