Who is, today, supervising, controlling, and limiting the power of the Armed Forces in Mexico? It will be said that a civilian, that is, his boss, the President of the Republic.
What worries me most in the current six-year term is not the mismanagement of the covid-19 pandemic, the fall of the economy due to terrible government decisions or the progressive social polarization promoted from the presidential pulpit. No. What worries me most is the growing militarization of the country.
Never, as far as I can remember, have the Army and Navy had as much power as they do today in Mexico.
It is something that López Obrador never promised in his three presidential campaigns. On the contrary, their position was to return the Armed Forces to their barracks from where President Calderón had taken them to solve the problem of public insecurity.
However, after he won the election in 2018, AMLO’s position changed radically. Instead of taking away responsibility for public security, it increased it with the creation of the National Guard, which supposedly would be civil, but ended up being, in fact, military.
In addition, the Armed Forces have been entrusted with the construction and administration of the new Santa Lucía airport, as well as the construction of the Lago de Texcoco Ecological Park, a new airport in Tulum, 2,700 branches of the Banco del Bienestar, and some sections of the Train Maya. He requested the remodeling of 32 hospitals that remained unfinished in the past six-year terms and to help in the distribution of gasoline and medicine throughout the country. Likewise, the task of preventing the passage of Central American migrants to the United States, as well as support for certain social programs, such as Sembrando Vida.
Increasingly, the military is replacing civilians in multiple federal government tasks.
Does this suit the country?
I think not because of a personal conviction: I don’t like military governments.
Perhaps they are more effective, but here comes the eternal problem that the poet Juvenal put on the table : “ Quis custodiet ipsos custodes ?”. Translation: “who watches the watchers?”
In this case, who is, today, supervising, controlling and limiting the power of the Armed Forces in Mexico?
It will be said that a civilian, that is, his boss, the President of the Republic.
But here comes another change of position by Andrés Manuel López Obrador .
When General Salvador Cienfuegos, former secretary of National Defense, was arrested in the United States throughout Peña’s six-year term, President López Obrador presented it as further evidence of the corruption of past governments, “of the decline of the regime that fortunately is already to end ”. He warned that, as in the case of Genaro García Luna, all the officials who had collaborated with the accused would be removed from their positions. It did not take into account that all current Army commanders, in one way or another, had collaborated with Cienfuegos in his capacity as former Secretary of Defense.
A few hours later, the President’s position began to change. First, he clarified the cleanliness in the Army. Later, he was outraged that the United States did not notify the Mexican government of Cienfuegos’ arrest. Later, he operated, together with Foreign Minister Ebrard, to return him to Mexico, which, unbelievably, he succeeded.
You don’t have to be a genius to know that behind AMLO’s sayings and deeds was the strong pressure exerted by the Armed Forces on his civilian chief. They used and taught the great political muscle they have. They achieved something unprecedented: that the attorney of another country desisted from prosecuting a person who had been investigating for years.
I return, then, to the question: who watches the military in Mexico? Let us remember that we are talking about public servants who have the greatest power of all, that is, that of arms.
Clearly, President López Obrador does not. Faced with the pressure exerted by the Army on his civilian chief, he changed his position and did everything possible to get the Americans to release the former Secretary of Defense.
Let’s imagine that the United States had arrested a former President of the Republic instead of a former Secretary of National Defense. Would the government of Mexico have mobilized all its resources so that the US prosecutor’s office would desist from persecuting him and return him to the national territory?
Frankly, I doubt it.
In this way, the great power that the military has in Mexico today was verified. None of the 30 million Mexicans who voted for AMLO in 2018 voted for this.
On the contrary, they went to the polls believing otherwise.