- Mexico’s Congress is addressing the country’s serious security and criminal justice challenges in a superficial and fragmented manner in its current discussions of multiple bills promoted by interest groups.
- To face the crisis of insecurity, corruption, impunity, human rights abuse, and criminal justice in a responsible way, Congress must address all relevant areas: public security, criminal investigation, National Anti-Corruption System, adversarial justice system, regulation of Article 29 of the Constitution, police reform, and a timeline for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces from tasks beyond their mandate.
Mexico City, April 25, 2017. It is essential for Mexican legislators to reverse course in the rushed congressional process that is carrying the country closer to approval of the Internal Security Law. Equally pressing is the need to halt multiple, serious counter-reforms proposed in the package known as the Miscellaneous Criminal Justice legislation, which run the risk of undoing the gains of Mexico’s recent transition to an oral, adversarial criminal justice system.
Notwithstanding objections from experts, as well as national and international bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission and the UN, legislators seek to fast-track laws that could worsen the security crisis, increase human rights violations, further undermine the rule of law, and facilitate the unchecked growth of violence in Mexico. Pressure to push these laws through Congress is seen by civil society as an exercise in horse-trading between political parties in the pre-election season. Such processes only generate distrust among the citizenry, further reducing the chance of finding lasting solutions to the crisis.
The most recent version of the Internal Security Law would give the Armed Forces a blank check to remain in the streets carrying out tasks beyond their constitutional mandate – tasks for which, in their own words, they are not trained. The bill contains worrying language that grants broad powers without establishing clear limits to these powers. Indeed, the continuing participation of the Armed Forces in public security tasks, regardless of the specific problems in each version of the bill, is itself a sign of alarming institutional deterioration – “denaturalization” in the words of the Defense Minister, General Cienfuegos.
The evidence demonstrates that the large-scale militarization of public security over the past ten years has been counterproductive, exacerbating violence instead of reducing it. The rushed approval of the Internal Security Law would mean that Congress opts for a false escape from the nation’s problems: instead of addressing the root causes of the disease, this law would prolong indefinitely the “treatment” that has done so much damage without offering a cure.
Congress is not only fast-tracking bills promoted by certain interest groups, but also working behind the population’s back. Over the last three months, the Commission of the Interior in the House of Representatives has discussed the Internal Security Law bill in secrecy, without consulting relevant experts. Now, just days away from the end of the current legislative sessions, it is simply impossible that the bill could be duly publicized and analyzed in time to be approved.
Mexico faces an enormous challenge that amounts to no less than rebuilding its security and justice mechanisms. We must not give in to attempts to legislate without basis in a factual analysis, the necessary foundation to reconstruct peace and security. We must not fall once more into the trap of improvised political solutions that perpetuate our national crisis. Relenting to certain groups’ pressure for tailor-made legislation would be not only counterproductive, but an error that could take generations to correct. Such a decision would lack legitimacy and society’s support, aspects that are fundamental for any public security or criminal justice system to be successful.
Finally, the fact that state governors are pushing for the Internal Security Law is yet another sign of the deteriorating institutional environment in Mexico. The governments primarily responsible for public security in their territories fail to live up to their obligations and instead seek for other actors to take charge of tasks that should fall exclusively to civilian authorities. In these crucial hours, this alone should doubly alert us to the serious mistake in danger of becoming reality.