On Tuesday, October 4th, the Mexican Senate approved a proposal to authorize the use of the armed forces for public security tasks until 2028, delivering a crucial victory to President López Obrador, who says that the ongoing presence of the military on the nation’s streets is essential to guarantee peace.
Eighty-seven senators voted in favor of the constitutional bill that seeks to extend the military’s involvement in public security by four years, while 40 opposed it.
Support for the bill was just over the two-thirds majority required to pass a proposal that seeks to modify the constitution. The proposed reform will now face a vote in the lower house of Congress, where lawmakers already approved an earlier version of the same bill.
Senators modified the bill after the ruling Morena party used its majority in the upper house to block a vote that would have killed off the proposal two weeks ago. Senator Ricardo Monreal, Morena’s leader in the Senate, said at the time that the vote was postponed to “broaden the debate and reach agreements.”
The modifications were sufficient to win the support of some Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) senators who opposed the bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies in mid-September.
Among the modifications are provisions that establish congressional oversight of the public security actions of the military and create a fund that will provide resources for the professionalization of municipal and state police forces.
Monreal said that Congress will become a “watchdog” of the armed forces and hold them to account. He described the congressional oversight mechanism as historic and unprecedented. There will be “parliamentary controls” over the armed forces that “haven’t existed until now,” the senator said.
The chiefs of the army and navy will be required to submit regular reports to Congress and could be summoned to appear before lawmakers.
The current government created the National Guard to lead its public security strategy, but three years after it was inaugurated violent crime remains a significant problem in some parts of the country.
Put forward by a PRI deputy, the original bill proposing a four-year extension to the military’s involvement in public security said that that a “solid and effective” police force “is not built overnight” and therefore, while the National Guard “develops its structure, capacities and territorial establishment,” the president of the day can use the armed forces for public security tasks in an “extraordinary, regulated, controlled, subordinated and complementary way.”