MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Wednesday voted to keep the army on the country’s streets until 2028, raising fears about the president’s efforts to militarize public security.
It is the second boost to the military’s power this month, after the upper house last week approved giving the army control over the National Guard, a military police force created in 2019.
The new motion on the military’s deployment, approved with 335 votes in favor and 152 against, had been due to expire in 2024 but will now carry through to 2028.
The move follows outbreaks of cartel violence across the country, with at least 20 convenience stores set alight in a night of unrest in the central states of Guanajuato and Jalisco last month.
Ignacio Mier, the lower house’s coordinator for the ruling party Morena, said the army’s continued presence on the streets would “guarantee the safety of families” and seek to “recover peace and tranquility.”
However, opposition member Jorge Romero was among critics who said it was a political move.
“It is not in this government’s interest to have a civilian police. What interests it is to militarize citizen security,” Romero said.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to return the military to their barracks while running for office in 2018, but later said he had changed his mind due to the need to tackle organized crime.
While the army has high approval among Mexicans, at close to 80% according to some polls, it has been involved in several cases of alleged human rights abuses and violations.
Various bodies, including the United Nations, have said that increasing the army’s power in Mexico could trigger more human rights abuses and was a step backwards for public security.
Lopez Obrador recently boasted of having reduced the monthly number of homicides, but his six-year term (2018-2024) is still set to be the most violent in Mexican modern history.
In the coming days, the new motion will be moved for final approval in the Senate, where Morena and its allies have the majority required to pass the law.
(The story corrects to show military will be on streets until 2028, not 2029, in headline and paragraphs 1 and 3)
(Reporting by Diego Ore, Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Leslie Adler)