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News > Latin America

Mexico Senate Approves Internal Security Bill

  • Activists hold a protest against a law that militarizes crime fighting in the country outside the Senate in Mexico City, Mexico December 14, 2017.

    Activists hold a protest against a law that militarizes crime fighting in the country outside the Senate in Mexico City, Mexico December 14, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 December 2017
Opinion

The bill passed 71 to 34, with three abstentions in a marathon overnight session. President Enrique Peña Nieto is set to sign it into law.

After a 15-hour overnight session, the Mexican Senate has approved the final version of the Internal Security Bill. It passed 71 to 34, with three abstentions.

RELATED: 
Mexico One Step Closer to Legalizing Military State

The bill was fast tracked to the Senate yesterday after it was approved by a special committee within the national deputy chambers.

During last night’s marathon negotiation, senators critical of the bill accused its supporters in the majority coalition — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the National Action Party, or PAN — of legalizing and normalizing a militarized state in Mexico and of disregarding human rights.

Protesters were out en masse Thursday night to demonstrate their opposition to the bill.

The Senate changed the bill minimally so that it reads that authorities cannot criminalize “peaceful” protest. Critics say that “peaceful” is open to interpretation and may legitimize military crackdowns on public demonstrators.

This final version, which still needs to be signed into law by President Enrique Peña Nieto, has received heavy criticism from national and international human rights organizations.

Essentially, the law legalizes state militarization — something it has been doing, de facto, for the past decade, when Former President Felipe de Jesus Calderon began using military forces as street police in 2006 as part of its “War on Drugs.”

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the National Commission of Human Rights, NCHR, and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Mexico, UNHCHR Mexico, said the bill is “highly worrying to the respect for human rights in Mexico.”

The new law will allow the president, as commander in chief, to order the military to perform police duties, such as conducting raids and arresting civilians, at the state and municipal levels.

The executive would not be required to disclose information regarding these deployments meant to “combat organized crime and terrorism” or anything else that threatens “national security.” The state can also “suspend human rights” if “society is in serious danger or conflict.”  

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“At the core (the law permits) a lack of civil (society) control, transparency and accountability regarding the use of military forces to function as regular police,” said Amnesty International Mexico official Tania Reneaum.

The NCHR and UNHCHR Mexico said that the bill shouldn’t be passed “under these conditions.” They called for “national dialogue regarding security in Mexico that doesn’t delegitimize the government, but also preserves and guarantees the people’s fundamental rights.”

Thousands of national activists under the hashtag "Seguridad Sin Guerra," or "Security Without War," add that the law would “perpetuate (the societal) violence it seeks to revert.”

The final bill is particularly worrying because, according to a Washington Office on Latin America, WOLA, investigation published in November,  military street forces are committing high incidences of violence against civilians.

WOLA found that between 2012 and 2016, there were 268 reported cases of “torture”, 121 cases of “abuses by the authorities,” 37 “forced disappearances” and 31 cases of sexual violence filed against military street forces. Seventeen people were killed by the military. The study also indicated that the overwhelming majority of reported cases go unpunished.

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