Mexico’s Supreme Court upholds retention of military in police duties

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the military to continue law enforcement duties until 2028.

The court rejected appeals that law enforcement should be left to the civilian police. Critics have warned President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that he is militarizing the country and ignoring the separation of powers.

Eight of the court’s 11 justices voted for the changes approved by Congress in October.

Putting soldiers and marines on the streets to fight crime was long seen as a stopgap measure in the country’s fight against the well-armed drug cartels. In 2019, the legislators voted to have the civilian police take over these tasks until 2024.

However, López Obrador supports an unlimited reliance on the military because he considers the armed forces to be more honest. The president has placed more responsibility on the military than any Mexican leader in recent memory.

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez human rights center wrote on Tuesday that “the judiciary has lost the opportunity to counter the militarization of the country.”

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Most experts agree that Mexico needs better paid, trained and equipped civilian police. Mexico’s state and municipal police are often corrupt, poorly trained, and unprofessional.

López Obrador relied almost exclusively on the military for law enforcement. He abolished the civilian federal police and created the National Guard, which he now wants to hand over entirely to the Ministry of Defense.

The president also relies on the armed forces in other areas, from infrastructure projects to the operation of airports and trains.