In a 71 to 34 vote, the Mexican Senate approved the Internal Security Law, which gives the Mexican armed forces a legal framework to conduct internal security operations. Proponents of the law say it will give the military the ability to support police in combating criminal networks that have hurt Mexico, while opponents believe it will lead to increased human rights abuses.
The bill, which is expected to be signed by President Enrique Peña Nieto, enables the military to be deployed into Mexican states in which criminal activity has surpassed the abilities of the local police. Under the law, once the military is deployed it can only remain in an area for one year. However, the President has the power to extend the deployments if needed.
Although support in the Senate for the legislation was strong, a vocal element of the country’s population opposes it. Protests broke out almost immediately after the bill was signed. International agencies, such as the UN, have said that Mexico’s military has violated human rights in the past. Opponents believe that the new bill will enable such violations to continue. Opponents also worry that the ability of the President to extend military operations in a region risks permanently militarizing the country.
Still, Mexico continues to combat violence caused by drug traffickers and organized crime. Since 2006, Mexico’s military has actively worked with local and national police to counter this threat. While military operations have been successful in destroying the country’s large drug trafficking networks, these large organizations have been replaced by smaller, more local gangs that have been more difficult to eradicate. Because the smaller gangs fight more fiercely among themselves, violence in the country has actually increased.
This in turn has created a continued need for operations against these groups.
Between 2012 and 2016, Mexico’s defense budget increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2 percent. Still, Mexico’s defense spending remains low as a percentage of the overall economy, making up only 0.55 percent of GDP in 2016. Furthermore, due to the declining value of the peso, spending on defense declined in dollar terms. It reached a high of $6.8 billion in 2014, and then fell to $5.7 billion in 2016.
With this law in place, defense spending will continue to grow. Forecast International expects defense spending in Mexico to increase between 2018 and 2022 at an annualized rate of about 1.6 percent.
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The Forecast International International Military Markets series examines the military capabilities, equipment requirements, and force structures inventories of 140 countries, with corresponding coverage of the political and economic trends shaping the defense market outlook for individual countries and regions.