×

Mexico high court upholds keeping military on police duties

FILE - Residents who are fed up with the army's strategy of simply separating the Jalisco and the Michoacan-based Viagras gangs, confront Mexican soldiers taking cover behind a barricade of car tires, in Loma Blanca, Mexico, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Mexico's Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, a constitutional change that allows the military to continue in law enforcement duties until 2028. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday a constitutional change that allows the military to continue in law enforcement duties until 2028.

The court ruled against appeals that argued law enforcement should be left to civilian police forces. Critics warned President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is militarizing the country, and ignoring the separation of powers.

Eight of the court’s 11 justices voted to uphold the changes that Congress approved in October.

Putting soldiers and marines on the streets to fight crime was long viewed as a stopgap measure to fight the country’s well-armed drug cartels. In 2019, legislators voted that civilian police should take over those duties by 2024.

But López Obrador supports relying on the military indefinitely because he views the armed forces as more honest. The president has given the military more responsibilities than any Mexican leader in recent memory.

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez human rights center wrote Tuesday that “the judicial branch has lost an opportunity to act as a counterbalance against the militarization of the country.”

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

López Obrador has relied almost exclusively on the military for law enforcement. He eliminated the civilian Federal Police force and created the National Guard, which he now wants to hand over completely to the Defense Department.

The president is also relying on the armed forces in other areas , from building infrastructure projects to running airports and trains.