Politics: The contradictions and problems of militarizing public security
The twin issues of public security and its militarization, specifically the role of the Armed Forces and National Guard, are once again on the front burner in Mexico. The latest spark was a February 26 incident involving students traveling home after a night of partying in border city Nuevo Laredo. Soldiers on a routine monitoring patrol reported seeing them speeding, hearing what they thought was a crash and feeling something was amiss. When the dust settled, five of the seven students were dead, one wounded, and the other uninjured. The Ministry of National Defense investigation claimed the captain of the military convoy never gave an order to open fire, and the four soldiers involved have been detained and brought before military justice.
This, in turn, sparked unprecedented protests in several areas of the country in support of the soldiers by active and retired military personnel and their families, who charge they are not receiving the support they are due from the federal government. They say military personnel have been on the receiving end of violence, abuse, and humiliation by drug traffickers, criminals, and sometimes, sectors of the general public.
The incident and its aftermath revealed serious ongoing problems with AMLO’s “hugs not bullets” policy for addressing public security, as well as the role of the Armed Forces, as opposed to police corporations, in dealing with the problem. Critics of the administration’s policy charge that it is grossly ineffective in fighting crime, and that the military lacks the training necessary for it to assume regular public security tasks. A major source of concern is the extent to which the militarization of public security has led to serious human rights violations.
Nevertheless, there is little chance that anything will change under the current presidential administration. The issue will clearly be with us for quite some time to come.
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