Since President Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to fight drug cartels in December 2006, the role of the Armed Forces in internal security missions has been deeply questioned.
The Mexican Constitution clearly establishes that the Mexican Army, Navy and Air Force should stay in a sort of “stand-by” situation during peace times, and should be deployed only in an event of national emergency.
However, the Mexican Army and Air Force Federal Act presents a contradiction to the Constitution’s spirit, for it states that “asserting the internal security” should be observed as one the Armed Force´s main tasks.
Given this contradiction, several NGO’s and politicians have urged both the President and the Congress to clarify the role of the Armed Forces in fighting Drug Cartels and Organized Crime, for they believe it is a civil –and not military- prerogative.
Thus the Senate started discussing a series of amendments to the National Security Act, trying to clarify the term of “internal security threat” and restricting military operations to specific areas and for a limited time.
Nevertheless, should the amendments get the Senate’s approval in the near future; the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities will be in extreme danger.
Let me be clear on this: the Senate is establishing that the military will not participate in internal security missions as long as the local governors don’t ask for it.
In MXSECURITY we believe that the Armed Forces’ intervention in internal security missions should be an emergency measure as long as the police forces –both federal and local- don’t increase their capabilities in fighting organized crime. In the meantime, there should be a regulatory scheme that both limits the scope of military actions while guarantying the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities.
Nevertheless, the use of military forces is the President’s prerogative and not the governor’s one. Given the extreme corruption among local authorities it could be suicidal to let them decide whether the Armed Forces should fight organized crime within their territory or not.
We expect the Senate will have that in mind before approving such a measure.
It is one thing to regulate the Armed Forces´ intervention in internal security missions…but a very different one to put their operational capabilities in the hands of local –questionable- authorities.
We´ve learned that the Senate has approved (April 27, 2010) the amendments we mentioned above. It is a big, strategic mistake that will change the balance of power in the war against DTO’s. The president should veto it.