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What is the Law on Internal Security?

Find out more about the legislation defining the rules of engagement of the Armed Forces in matters of public security
Members of the Federal Police during a Military Parade – Jair Cabrera/EL UNIVERSAL
04/12/2017
11:04
Horacio Jiménez
Mexico City
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The Law on Internal Security – approved last Thursday by the Chamber of Deputies – is a legislation which establishes the actions to be undertaken by the Armed Forces of Mexico regarding public security and defines in which situations shall Armed Forces act.

Eleven years ago, the then-President of the Mexican Republic, Felipe Calderón, took the decision of engaging the Armed Forces to fight organized crime; however, there is no current legal framework for the Military to act in matters of public security.

What is the Law proposing?

This Law, comprised only of 34 chapters and 4 provisional articles, establishes that the intervention of the Armed Forces in states and municipalities shall only be temporary and for a period of time not exceeding one year; nevertheless, the permanence of Armed Forces may be extended upon the request of the President of the Mexican Republic as long as the threat to internal security remains. Moreover, military support to the states will be subjected to the collaboration of the entities themselves.

A specific item which has drawn opinions against the Law was the issue of whether the Armed Forces would act against social protests since these could be considered a threat to internal security. Yet, the bill was amended to state it is forbidden to use the Law on Internal Security against non-violent social or political protests and demonstrations.

The legal use of force is granted to the Armed Forces within rational and proportional methods, protocols, weaponry, and tactics, to control, fight, or neutralize resistance acts pursuant to their characteristics and execution modes.

The Law also includes an article explaining that all the actions undertaken during the military interventions shall “preserve, at all times and without exception, human rights." Yet, it also sets forth that when actions severely disturb public peace and endanger society, said rights could be suspended.

When Armed Forces perform actions pursuant to safekeeping the internal security and notice a crime being committed, they shall immediately inform the Public Prosecutor's Office or the Police through the fastest channel so the corresponding authorities can act accordingly; the Armed Forces shall only guard the crime scene until the arrival of the corresponding authorities and, if applicable, take any measures to provide medical attention to any injured individuals, as well as to hand over any suspects or arrested individuals to the police.

What are the arguments against?

Several opponents (including NGO's) claim the legislation could be a precedent for the permanent presence of Armed Forces in the streets, which could lead to the militarization of the country, in addition to the risk of social protests being deemed a threat to internal security.

Another argument questions the fact that the President of the Republic shall have enough powers an authority to request military intervention under any circumstance they consider a threat to internal security, only consulting the matter with the National Security Council.

And finally, that Armed Forces shall be able, pursuant to the Law, to resort to any legal method to gather intelligence.

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