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    NewsLatin AmericaTsep. Militarization and its nuances

    Tsep. Militarization and its nuances

    Tell me what you qualify and I will tell you what you defend. During the demonstrations for the disappearance of the 43 students from the Isidro Burgos school in Ayotzinapa in 2014, the phrase “It was the State” concentrated the indignation derived from the images in which a group of students was seen in police vans they were transported to an uncertain destination. The last images revealed that they were in vehicles of the public force, the last time we could see a group of students before their disappearance they were in the hands of one of the State institutions.

    Those who defended the position of the Government in turn, began to qualify the phrase that was repeated in the streets, “it was not the State”, they said, “the State is something else”, they tried to explain to us, “the population is also part of the State , so his phrase is just a hollow slogan”, they repeated to us. Given the overwhelming evidence that was appearing and that was increasingly difficult to hide, they clarified the responsibility of the State institutions in the disappearance of the students.

    For those who, desperately, asked for the normalistas to be presented alive, many of them belonging to indigenous peoples, it was not time to qualify, it was an urgent situation, the seriousness of the situation warranted a clear complaint: it was the State. As my friend, the Mixe political scientist Tajëëw Diaz, says, there are times when limits are diffuse and complex, but there are times when they are not, when they are clear and you have to take a position. In recent weeks, the State recognized that it was the State, that a Mexican army colonel against whom an arrest warrant had already been issued, a commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion based in Iguala, Guerrero, ordered the murder of six of the students who were still alive four days after their disappearance. It wasn’t just the local police, it was also the Army.

    Recognition of the army’s role in the Ayotzinapa case collides with the federal government’s desire to hand over operational and administrative control of the National Guard to SEDENA and with its desire to keep the Army on the streets. A few days ago, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approved putting the National Guard under the wing of the Army. Days before, in the face of indignation and concern on the part of public opinion, civil society and indigenous peoples, certain intellectuals linked to the Fourth Transformation began to qualify what was happening, “it cannot be called militarization”, we explained those who used to call “militarization” any action that broadened the powers of the Army. “Individual guarantees are not being suspended”, they clarified to us, “it is only a change that is above all administrative”, they tried to clarify, trying to dilute the forcefulness of what was happening in a labyrinth of semantic details. But there are times when the limits are clear, tell me what you qualify and I’ll tell you what you defend.

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    The Army should not get involved in public security tasks, there is too much evidence to support that statement. Little by little we have naturalized the fact that the armed forces can also function as a police force in the fight against crime. For many people, the Army and Navy are like the police, only much better trained, more armed and less corrupt, so when things get complicated, the Army can be called in to do public security work. However, this is not the case no matter how much it has been built in our imaginary, which also means a narrative triumph of militarist thought. The Army is not a police force. In countries like the United States, when it has been insinuated that the Armed Forces fight organized crime, the military commanders have refused, saying that they cannot expose the Army to the corrupting power of drug trafficking. What worries me above all is the fact of exposing civil society to the control of the Army under the pretext of providing greater security which, as we have seen over the years of having the Army on the streets, is not fulfilled . Putting the armed forces to carry out police tasks is to confront civilian elements with the military.

    Following the very logic of the state model, public security, in any democracy, necessarily needs to be a civil command corporation because crime, in any case, is a matter of the social sphere, not a military one. The Army has other functions: defense of the territory and national sovereignty (that is, defense against external attacks), implement an emergency plan in case of disasters and act when internal security is threatened. In the latter, in the broad interpretation that the phrase “internal security” can have, governments have shielded themselves, including this one, to give more powers to the Army in combating a problem of social origin, not military, such as crime. .

    At this point, they have bet that the meaning of “internal security” and “public security” will overlap and blur the lines to keep the army on the streets. According to the Internal Security Law (prepared as the interests of the government in turn), this is put at risk when the functioning of institutions or the maintenance of constitutional order, the rule of law and democratic governance are threatened, only in that case the Army could intervene. To ask that the National Guard, in charge of public security, be under the operational and administrative control of SEDENA is to accept that you need the Armed Forces to guarantee internal security, that you need the Army so that your institutions work, so that they remain the constitutional order, the rule of law and democratic governance; that is to say, you are accepting that as Executive power you cannot govern the country without the Army in the streets, you are militarizing a social function such as providing public security. To do this is to militarize the executive functions, without nuances. In addition, we must consider all the new powers that have been given to the armed forces, such as taking charge of state infrastructure projects or installing the antennas that will take the Internet to all of Mexico in Army barracks and territories with all the dangers and implications that this supposes.

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    Let us accept, at least for a moment, that internal security, not just public security, is threatened by the violence inherited from past six-year terms, that without the army doing police work there is no governability and the constitutional order is not respected because the police are in such a state that it can no longer fulfill its functions with a minimum that guarantees the functioning of your institutions. Why should we assume that the Army is an immaculate, incorruptible and morally clean entity that can purge police corporations under its mantle until they are pristine? There is nothing to indicate that this is true; The evidence, such as the Army’s role in the murder of the Ayotzinapa students, points to the opposite, telling us that the Army has actively collaborated with organized crime in addition to systematically attacking the civilian population for decades.

    Even though Lopez Obrador says that under his government the Army has suddenly changed in just four years, according to Estefania Vela in this article, in 2020 there were 260 clashes with civilians in which members of SEDENA were involved, during these clashes over For each soldier who died, 39.5 civilians died. This and the other data that he presents seem tremendously alarming to me, and all this without taking into account the terrible role of the Armed Forces in our country throughout the 20th century.

    There will be those who say that the people who died in clashes with elements of SEDENA were civilians involved in crime, as Felipe Calderon said before, but to justify these deaths in this way implies accepting that these people did not have the right to a trial and that without due process they deserved to die immediately under the bullets of the army. That is going against the much weighted rule of law. The police must be reformed, it is a fact, but not militarized.

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    Many times Lopez Obrador has maintained that the Army is a people in uniform; Although a good part of the Army comes from the lower classes and indigenous peoples, the truth is that this cannot be sustained. It is not a question of a popular army emanating from the Mexican Revolution as the president has said, it is not the popular troops of Villa and Zapata that they were so determined to dismantle in order to consolidate an army as a State, the current Army is rather heir of the Dirty War, heir to that of Calderon and Pena Nieto.

    The actions of the elements of the Army are not the manifestation of the interests of the civilian population against whom they have historically attacked, they are generally the manifestation of chains of command that come from privileged military elites that may be generally allied to the oligarchy or, in terrible cases, they are the manifestation of structured violence that causes more than ten soldiers to rape an indigenous woman or commit extrajudicial executions and murders, as continues to happen. In conversation with the linguist Michael Swanton, he told me how, before Lopez Obrador, Salvador Allende had also referred to the Armed Forces as “people who wear uniforms”; Indeed, he did so in a speech on the occasion of his first year in office on November 4, 1971 at the National Stadium of Chile, where he paid tribute to the armed forces “for their loyalty to the Constitution and the will expressed in the ballot boxes for citizens. It continues to be very bitter for us to this day to remember the way in which Allende realized that the Army was not “a people that wears a uniform” and that it respects the citizen’s will.

    It has also been very painful for us throughout the recent history of this country to realize every time that the Army is an entity very different from the people and that it will never be a good idea to expand its powers, its ranges of action and its role in the public life. It is a clear limit that should not be nuanced.

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