President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to place Mexico’s National Guard under full military control, which comes before the Senate today, would deepen and make permanent a model that has failed to improve security for over 15 years. The Senate should reject this unconstitutional attempt to eliminate the last vestige of civilian federal police and to transfer yet more roles to the military.
WOLA has closely monitored the evolution and effects of militarization of policing tasks in Mexico under the administrations of Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón, Enrique Peña Nieto, and López Obrador. The evidence demonstrates the failure of the military model: annual homicides more than tripled and have remained over 35,000 since 2018. Over 100,000 people are currently registered as disappeared and missing, the vast majority in the last ten years. Militarization led to skyrocketing levels of human rights violations such as torture (including sexual torture of women), arbitrary executions, and enforced disappearances. There has been almost no accountability for these crimes.
Despite this, in 2019 López Obrador replaced the Federal Police with a National Guard overwhelmingly composed of military personnel that, in practice, is already coordinated by the armed forces. Now, he seeks to make the National Guard a fully military force under the command of the Ministry of Defense.
The reform proposal before the Senate today would violate Mexico’s own Constitution, which establishes that the National Guard shall be “a civilian police institution” (art. 21). Placing federal policing tasks in exclusively military hands would violate Mexico’s international treaty obligations and binding judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as going against the recommendations of a long list of United Nations bodies that have visited and analyzed the situation in Mexico.
WOLA’s nearly five decades of work throughout Latin America show that militarizing policing and other civilian tasks endangers the human rights of the population. Concentrating ever more internal roles in the military and blurring the line between public security and national security are warning signs of an unbalanced civil-military relationship.
“Mexico’s government should change course in its failed security strategy before it’s too late,” said Stephanie Brewer, WOLA’s Director for Mexico. “Mexico needs to consolidate capable and accountable civilian security and justice institutions at all levels, not enshrine permanent military deployment.”