The Executive must ensure the good behavior of the Army and respect for the population

In recent days, evidence has emerged that members of the Mexican Army spied on and illegally tapped the phones of journalists and human rights activists. Raymond Ramosone of them, heads the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee, and as such questioned the disappearance of young people who had been detained by the military.

Confronted with this fact, last Friday the president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador he preferred to minimize such accusations. Among other things, he affirmed that it was not about espionage but intelligence tasks (a euphemism that in this case designates the same thing); he chose not to acknowledge that the Army has used the Pegasus program when there is accounting evidence of the acquisition of this software and there are leaks of military files that account for reports describing such espionage. Worrying because it would be acts of illegal surveillance of people who are not criminals and do not constitute a danger to national security.

Unlike many of the critics, I do not rule out the use of the Armed Forces as a response to the enormous power that cartels and criminal gangs have acquired. It is a dangerous path, but at this point it would seem that the capacity of fire and territorial control of the hit men has exceeded the possibility of the police organizations that we have. There are millions of Mexicans subjected to unbearable violence unleashed by the cartels and it would be irresponsible to do nothing about it, under the pretense that one day we will have the police we need.

But precisely, by resorting to that extreme solution that involves using Armed Forces that are accustomed to attacking and containing, not conducting police investigations, is that we would have to redouble our efforts to limit the risks involved in having soldiers face up to the civilian population. Whether we like it or not, we must assume that crime is not an army that can face each other on the battlefield, but that it is subsumed among the population. And indeed, I would agree with the President, it is better to have intelligence work (infiltration and espionage) than the use of arbitrary violence.

The issue is how to ensure that the powers to spy on citizens do not become an illegal and authoritarian instrument. There are legal procedures to which the military would have to be subject in the face of these new tasks. An organization with 300 thousand elements cannot be perfect. There are and will continue to be incidents of corruption, violations of the law and acts of authoritarianism. We can take for granted the temptation that some officers will experience to start monitoring journalists and human rights activists who criticize their excesses. Everything indicates that it is already happening. The Armed Forces are usually opaque, reluctant to air failures or procedures, and always ready to argue “national security” reasons to justify their secrecy in the face of public opinion. That is here and in China, something inherent to military institutions.

It is not to be scandalized, but to be aware. If the 4T government has decided to turn the Armed Forces into a key player in the public administration, and incorporate them as central players in the fight against organized crime in direct interaction with the population, it is obliged to take charge of those risks. Denying that they exist, when they do exist, precisely increases concerns about the damage that derives from the intervention of the Army in civilian tasks.

Recognizing that there are members of the Army that make mistakes does not mean disqualifying the Armed Forces as a whole. On the contrary. López Obrador has asked that we have confidence in them; for the same reason, he would have to be the most committed in pointing out and extirpating any excess from his part.

Instead, the President’s response has sought to deny or minimize these facts, simply so as not to “play fat for his enemies.” But by responding in this way, you run the risk of legitimizing violative behavior on the part of members of the Armed Forces, against the right of citizens to express their opinion or defend causes in which they believe. The best way not to make fat broth to adversaries, is to root out this criticism by anticipating to eradicate the bad actions of the officers, recognize them, combat them and establish procedures to avoid them.

The President has assumed the enormous burden of responding to criticism against his government, most of it the product of bad temper and almost always raised by his adversaries with the purpose of damaging his image. In this work, López Obrador has been extremely effective in clarifying confusion, displaying exaggerations, and making slander transparent. But, once in the task, all criticism ends up being rejected, denied or judged as an invention of conservatives. The problem is that there are occasions, like this, in which the documented questioning of the Army’s excesses would have to lead to a responsible response, in the case of a government that postulates itself as republican, democratic and in favor of the unprotected.

The President is right when he talks about the institutionality of the Armed Forces and its historic commitment to the Mexican people; also in the fact that the population appreciates its work and is one of the public entities with the greatest recognition and legitimacy among Mexicans. But you have to make sure it stays that way. There will be officers who will misuse the enormous role they are acquiring, the powers and resources that this entails, and they will feel protected by the hermetic nature of military institutions. It is the task of the Executive to ensure both: the good behavior of the Armed Forces in these new tasks and the security and respect for the population. Minimizing, denying or overlapping excesses, when they occur, as seems to be the case, is contrary to what is needed. I only hope that the President’s denial response is facing the rostrum and that he will soon take measures to prevent these violations from continuing.


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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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