Human Rights and Militarization

Student protesters flee from a tank in Tlatelolco Square October 2, 1968.

by Miguel Concha

Democracy, simply put in Rousseau’s terms, is that popular and collective will given to a legitimate person to represent and address the needs of the people for the common good. However, when this political model moves away from human rights, security and the lives of the people, not only is true democracy put at risk, but also the people themselves.

This social peril has worsened in Mexico during the last six presidential terms, with failed security policies and policies to combat organized crime, which have failed to guarantee the rights to life and social peace. On the contrary, they have exacerbated violence in the country. This has been the result of militaristic logic implemented by the government through the increased use of the armed forces, which puts human rights at risk.

The National Guard, promoted by the federal Executive Branch of the current administration, was introduced as the body that would guarantee security and peace for the population, through public security activities with a civilian command. It is important to mention that this promise was made in the context of a war declared against drug trafficking since the six-year term of Felipe Calderón, which has failed to restore peace in the territories, but has increased violence and serious human rights violations. In spite of this, the constant reforms to the regulations of the National Guard, especially those recently approved, have generated fears about respect for human rights.

The regulatory framework at the start of this government, which gave way to the National Guard, established that citizen security should be the responsibility of civilian commanders in order to respect and ensure the rule of law; it also established the obligation for the gradual withdrawal of the armed forces from public security work, which was to take place over the next five years. However, with the recent modification, it is proposed that the direction of the agency will be under the Secretariat of National Defense, thus omitting the previously pledged civilian character and returning to the military nature; moreover, the period for the armed forces to remain on the streets was extended.

As has been pointed out by various civil society organizations and international human rights organizations, placing the military in support of public security tasks violates the rule of law and human rights.

It is necessary to understand that the crisis of violence and institutionality in the country is largely a consequence of capitalist policies that have opted for extractivism and dispossession of lands and territories through violence, and in complicity with the great international economic powers; of the repression of social movements and human rights defenders to protect social order, of the lack of justice in a country with an impunity rate of more than 90 percent, of a security model incompatible with democracy and peace, and the growth of organized crime.

The search for peace, through the clarification of truth and justice, has been the demand of various victims of crimes and serious human rights violations, who have suffered repression, excessive use of force and impunity under military command, as happened with the student movements on October 2, 1968 in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, or, more recently, on September 26, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero.

So, without having established the corresponding responsibilities and much less the due sanctions, impunity has been maintained.

These historical references remind us that military rule has been, unfortunately, synonymous with repression of protests and social movements, which has not guaranteed civilian security. Therefore, there is no place for the protection of life and human rights with military personnel doing civilian work.

Opposing the continuation of the failed security strategy of maintaining military rule in the streets is not unwarranted. On the contrary, it is necessary to design security strategies that avoid at all costs granting even more power to the Army, that prioritize guaranteeing the human rights of the civilian population as established in the Mexican Constitution and international human rights standards, and that confront organized crime in a multilateral manner and from different levels of government.

Security cannot be guaranteed with violence, weapons or the military, just as the excessive use of force is unnecessary to solve social inequalities. What we need is to build a social democracy to dismantle social structures and recover peace through the justice that has been taken from us with weapons.

This article was published in La Jornada on October 15th, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/10/15/opinion/012a2pol English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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