On October 4, the Senate voted to approve by a divided majority the extension of the presence of the armed forces in the streets until 2028, arguing that it was necessary to provide security to citizens since until now the National Guard had not done enough. Today the House of Representatives will discuss and vote on the opinion of the Senate to vote tomorrow in the plenary.
The participation of the armed forces in public security tasks is particularly worrisome due to the lack of transparency they can operate with compared to police corporations. Furthermore, military operations are is reactive and a frontal combat against the enemy, while the security of citizens demands an approach based on crime prevention and attention to victims. These circumstances have jeopardized the respect and protection of the rights of citizens, which has been reflected since 2007 in an increase in complaints received by the National Human Rights Commission regarding the actions of the Ministry of Defense and the Navy. For this reason, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out in his report of May 2022 that the public security approach characterized by militarization to fight crime has been insufficient and inadequate with regard to the protection of human rights.
The strategy of militarizing public security has not had a significant impact in guaranteeing peace and justice for citizens. On the contrary, resorting to the armed forces to replace the functions of the police forces made violence worse in different areas of the north of the country and led to the violation of human rights, such as in the cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. Neutralizing the threat posed by organized crime activities requires an approach that goes beyond frontal combat tactics against the enemy, since these create conditions that make it possible to violate human rights. An adequate and effective security strategy requires the creation of police forces commanded by civilians, with well-trained troops, in close contact with citizens, and with the necessary equipment. Furthermore, the effective deployment of these troops must be based on exhaustive intelligence and investigative work. It is also essential to generate mechanisms that prevent corruption and impunity in the forces assigned to security tasks.
As established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CoIDH) in the resolution: Alvarado Espinoza and Others Vs. Mexico case. Background, reparations, and costs. November 28, 2018 resolution. Series C No. 370, para. 182:
The participation of the armed forces in matters of public security must be exceptional, extraordinary, justified, subordinate, complementary, and overseen by competent and independent civilian bodies.
For those of us who live in the northern states of Mexico, such as Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua, the fact that the Army is still on the streets guarantees serious violations of human rights, since in recent years, the organizations represented here have documented cases where the military are directly and indirectly involved, especially after the implementation of strategies where members of the Army participated in public security institutions such as the so-called «Coahuila Model» in 2008, «Nuevo León Seguro» in 2007 and «Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua» in 2008.
In Coahuila, there was an act of abuse by the Army in 2006. In a bar in Castaños, Coahuila, 14 female dancers were sexually abused by several soldiers; It was after a while that the military itself finally took them to civil court.
Subsequently, violence increased in the state and coincided with the implementation of the strategy called “Coahuila Model”, where retired soldiers were in charge of public security institutions. At that time, various special groups were created that were trained by these soldiers to fight criminal groups. But it seems that the government did not think of a strategy that would benefit civil society, since serious human rights violations increased, especially disappearances, extortion and homicides. That is, the model failed and the military officials in charge of these institutions left the state.
Today there is another very serious situation: Rights violations against migrants. In July 2019, an operation was carried out outside the Casa del Migrante Saltillo, led by the Military Police, the Municipal Police, the National Guard and SEDENA troops, under the argument of searching for drug dealers. Also, on their way to the northern border, migrants are intercepted both by state police officers and the National Guard, being stripped of their belongings and the documents that in many cases allow them free transit through the country. In a report called “Bajo la Bota” (Under the boot) prepared by various organizations throughout the country, they describe: “The militarized immigration policy has increased the risk for migrants.”
Coahuila has become one of the main states where there is a military presence: it ranks sixth with 4,453 members of the armed forces after Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora and Chihuahua.[i] There are three mega barracks, three military bases; three air bases, a Puerta Amarilla barracks; six military operation centers and by September 22, 300 soldiers had arrived through the Laguna Special Command, within the framework of the National Public Security Strategy. Finally, only in Coahuila has a Militarized Technological High School program been available since 2017. 12
The presence of thousands of members of the armed forces in Nuevo León began after the entry into force of the “Nuevo León Seguro” agreement in 2007. As of that year, subsequent governors renewed and expanded said agreement. During the current administration, the Monterrey Seguro operation has promoted the participation of the military in patrolling and setting up checkpoints. Since February 2022, several hundred members of the Army have arrived in the capital to gradually undertake public security tasks in the metropolitan area. This trend represents a risk to the civil rights of the citizens of the state, since in the past some members of the armed forces have participated in executions and disappearances.
Some notable cases of extrajudicial executions include those of Rocío Elías Garza and her husband, Juan Carlos Chavarría, executed by the military in March 2010 in the municipality of Anáhuac when they were leaving work; Jorge Antonio Mercado and Javier Francisco Arredondo, students from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, assassinated by members of the army in March 2010 on their school campus; Jorge Otilio Cantú, assassinated by the military in April 2011; and Gustavo Acosta, executed at his home by members of the Navy in September of that year. Regarding enforced disappearance, a soldier was sentenced in May 2012; in March 2016, five members of the Navy were linked to a judicial process for the enforced disappearance of Humberto del Bosque registered in August 2013.
In the specific case of the state of Chihuahua, we suffered the consequences of violence and the militarized response to it, which was exacerbated since the army started patroling the streets in the context of the “Joint Chihuahua Operation” in 2008, during the failed war on drug trafficking, a strategy implemented by then-President Felipe Calderón, and whose only achievement was to place Ciudad Juárez at the top of the list of the most dangerous cities in the world, a situation that to date has had a profound impact on citizens regarding their trust in the authorities, especially due to the multiple reports of enforced disappearances, home invasions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and arbitrary arrests committed by the military.
Precisely because of the currently strengthened militarization strategy, we would like to recall the disappearance of Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes and José Ángel Alvarado Herrera in December 2009, which occurred in the Benito Juárez Ejido in the Municipality of Buenaventura, Chih. and was perpretrated by Mexican Army soldiers, as recognized by the CoIDH in the resolution issued on the case in 2018.
We will continue to demand that the resolution of the Court in the following mentioned sentence be enforced:
182. […] as a general rule, the Court reaffirms that maintaining internal public order and citizen security must be primarily reserved for civilian police forces […]. However, when they exceptionally intervene in security tasks, the participation of the armed forces must be:
a) Extraordinary, so that any intervention is justified and exceptional, temporary and restricted to what is strictly necessary for the circumstances […];
b) Subordinate and complementary to the work of civil corporations, and their work cannot extend to the powers of the institutions for the prosecution of justice or judicial or ministerial police […]; c) Regulated, through legal mechanisms and protocols on the use of force, under the principles of exceptionality, proportionality and absolute necessity […] and in accordance with the respective training in the matter […], and
d) Overseen by competent, independent and technically capable civil organizations […].
(IACHR. Alvarado Espinoza and Others Vs. Mexico case. Background, reparations and costs. November 28, 2018, resolution. Series C No. 370, para. 182.)
The strategy of violent militarization is established both by the Court and by various international instances and article 21 of the Constitution: «Public security institutions, including the National Guard, will be civilian, disciplined and professional.»
Therefore, we demand that:
The provisions of paragraph 182 cited above are complied with,
A public security strategy be established from a citizen perspective, that these public security officers are duly trained;
Security strategies that are consistent with the needs of the population, as well as those who have already suffered a human rights violation by the Army and continue to await reparation, as well as non-repetition measures.
The signatory organizations will be following the decisions of Congress and will not hesitate to denounce the arbitrary acts committed by the military institution, contributing to the corruption and impunity that prevails to this day.
Mexico is a country that suffers from a lack of social justice and in which there is still a long way to go to guarantee human rights for all people. Our work is medullary in the demand for truth, justice, and reparation. Continuing this cause is work that cannot cease and doing so requires solidarity and support. If you want to contribute to our cause, you can make your donation through PayPal.