Mexico fears creeping coup as soldiers take police jobs

Some call it "the militarisation of Mexico". Others speak of "a creeping military coup".

When 2,500 army troops took the place of police officers on Mexico City streets this month, it was only the latest move by President Ernesto Zedillo to put internal security in the hands of the military.

Citing spiralling crime, drug trafficking and corruption within the police, Mr Zedillo had already appointed army officers to head key civil jobs - the Mexico City police, the Federal Judicial Police and the Anti-Narcotics Institute.

When the general appointed last December to head the latter was arrested last month for protecting a major drug cartel, questions were raised over Mr Zedillo's logic.

Since the 1910-17 revolution, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has maintained an unwritten pact under which the military retains virtual autonomy in return for staying out of politics. Now, many Mexicans fear the military could be getting a taste for power.

"Bringing in the military to replace the police sets a dangerous precedent," said political analyst German Plascencia of the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. "It is part of moves by the state to defuse social mobilisation around the country. Such active participation by the army gives its officers ideas and power. It could lead to a coup d'etat."

"There is a risk that a stronger military presence in civil affairs will lead to a greater use of force," said Clemente Valdez, an expert on the Mexican constitution. "That can erode civil liberties and lead to more violence."

With the capital's police force renowned for its corruption, Mr Zedillo appointed General Enrique Salgado to head the city force last year. The generalkicked out scores of police officers and brought in his own men.

Mr Zedillo then named General Tito Valencia Ortiz to head the Federal Judicial Police. Then came the appointment in December of General Jose Gutierrez Rebollo to head the National Institute for the Combat of Drugs. Last month, however, General Gutierrez was detained for allegedly being in cahoots with drug baron Amado Carrillo.

Last month, Mr Zedillo sent soldiers to replace Federal Judicial police in his home state of Baja California, apparently because the police force was protecting drug shipments across the border to the US.

And this week, 2,500 soldiers fanned out across the crime-ridden Iztapalapa district of the capital. The official version was that the 3,000 police officers were being sent on a military-style training course to equip them to fight spiralling crime. Similar job swaps are planned through the capital.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore