Despite election promises to remove the Armed Forces from the streets and from roles in public security and the fight against organized crime, this term of office of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has witnessed continued militarization. In his ongoing love affair with the military, AMLO has given control of railways, ports and airports to the Armed Forces.
The latest episode in this process of increasing military power has been the moves to place administrative and operational control of the National Guard under SEDENA, the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense. Although originally intended as a civil body, since its inception the National Guard has had a strong military character, with over 60% of its recruits coming from the armed forces and the presence of retired officers in its ‘civil’ direction.
The increased militarization has resulted in violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples and tgeir territories throughout Mexico. “The completion of the construction of 24 National Guard (GN) barracks is planned for Chiapas, out of the 500 projected nationwide. It will have 3,522 troops, out of 223,000 members that constitute the institution and are distributed in 266 regional locations at national level. The barracks have been installed in the territories of Native Peoples who oppose the dispossession of their living spaces through the megaprojects of the Federal Government, such as the Mayan train, the Interoceanic Corridor, the Dos Bocas Refinery or the road infrastructure that connects them.” Frayba recently released a statement on the subject (https://frayba.org.mx/la-militarizacion-aumenta-la-violencia-y-perpetua-las-violaciones-derechos-humanos-y-los), translated below.
Militarization Increases Violence and Perpetuates Violations of Human Rights and Territories of the Peoples – Frayba
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
September 18th, 2022
Bulletin No. 30
Constitutional reforms on questions of security violate the peoples’ peacebuilding processes.
The completion of the construction of 24 National Guard (GN) barracks is planned for Chiapas, out of the 500 projected nationwide. It will have 3,522 troops, out of 223,000 members that constitute the institution and are distributed in 266 regional locations at national level. The barracks have been installed in the territories of Native Peoples who oppose the dispossession of their living spaces through the megaprojects of the Federal Government, such as the Mayan train, the Interoceanic Corridor, the Dos Bocas Refinery or the road infrastructure that connects them.
In this context, the armed forces in the state of Chiapas have served as coercive elements that seek to demobilize the peoples and communities that defend their land and territory. In 2018, the Mexican Army put in place an apparatus of spying, harassment, intimidation and criminalization of the organization Autonomous Peoples in Defense of Uses and Customs (Pueblos Autónomos en Defensa de los Usos y Costumbre – PADUC), entering the Community of Angel Albino Corzo, municipality of Palenque, Chiapas, on February 18th of the same year in. The operation was carried out by military personnel (38th Military Zone, 18th Infantry and the Seventh Military Region), Federal and State Police, as well as ministerial police, who, under the argument of applying the repealed “Internal Security Law” surrounded the community, cut off their electricity, generating terror against representatives of dozens of communities.
The Tseltal people of Chilon demonstrated on October 15th, 2020, against the construction of the GN barracks that was built on their territory without their consent, and were heavily repressed by the Municipal Police of Ocosingo and Chilon, as well as by the State Police, with the support of the GN, who attacked with stones, sticks, tear gas, hit people and vehicles, causing injuries, material damage and the arbitrary arrest of Cesar Hernandez Feliciano and Jose Luis Gutierrez Hernandez, who in addition to having been tortured, face an unfair trial for the crime of Mutiny that indicates the repressive sense of the Chiapas government.
In the midst of the current remilitarization of Chiapas, drug trafficking and consumption have intensified, disappearances and homicides persist. This proves that as in the nineties the strategy is unsuccessful. Among the impacts of the violence are: communities attacked and forced to displace, in others curfews have been imposed by criminal groups and imposed silence. We are facing an unrepentant State and the failure of the military strategy.
The Federal Government ignores what has been pointed out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who have expressed concern about the role of the Armed Forces in public security tasks. They have urged the Mexican State to change the militarized approach to security.
However, the head of the executive, with the approval of the Congress of the Union, granted control of the operation and administration of the GN to the Ministry of National Defense. With this initiative, the government deepens the militarization of the country, putting at risk and insecurity those who organize to defend their rights and territory.
Memories persists of the way in which the Mexican Army has occupied Zapatista territories since 1994, trained, financed and executed the counterinsurgency plan named the Chiapas ‘94 Campaign Plan, creating various paramilitary groups. The numerous repressions of social movements such as in Atenco, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, Xoxocotla, the summary executions such as Tlatlaya, as well as the direct participation in the State crime that is the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa.
At Frayba, we express our concern about the approval of the constitutional reforms in security matters that violate the peacebuilding processes of the peoples, communities and groups. We make a call to walk in the construction of a different security model that promotes solutions to the environment of violence that prevails in Chiapas and in our country.
Original text in Spanish at https://frayba.org.mx/la-militarizacion-aumenta-la-violencia-y-perpetua-las-violaciones-derechos-humanos-y-los