The Price of Mexico’s Militarized Infrastructure

(Bloomberg) -- President Andres Manuel López Obrador gave the Mexican military two important jobs: build major infrastructure to jumpstart the economy and fight violent crime. As his six-year term comes to an end, citizens are wondering why progress seems to have been made only on one of those fronts.

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Under López Obrador, 70, often referred to as AMLO, the military’s mandate expanded to building and running railways, airports and even hotels in addition to its law enforcement role. At the same time, homicides skyrocketed, resulting in one of the bloodiest presidential terms in Mexico’s recent history, with more than 170,000 murders. In the Bloomberg Originals mini-documentary Why Mexico Is Militarizing, we show how López Obrador’s priorities may have sacrificed public safety in the name of public works, and how Mexico’s incoming president may find it difficult to change course.

Historically, Mexican presidents have devoted almost 50% of the defense budget on training, recruiting and deploying soldiers and buying weapons. Under López Obrador, that share of the budget, in real terms, will have fallen to 17%. Meanwhile, some 51% of the military’s 2024 budget was earmarked for infrastructure projects.

The Tren Maya, a nearly 1,000 mile railway designed to deliver tourists to hotspots like Cancun and Merida, is arguably López Obrador’s most ambitious infrastructure project. The military is building about a third of it, spending more than half of its annual budget on the project.

In addition to the shift in resources, the military’s takeover of traditionally civilian roles in Mexican society has some advocates warning about potential abuses.

“The armed forces are, by definition, armed corporations. And having them performing these many functions increases the risks of human rights violations,” said Lisa Sanchez, head of Mexico United Against Crime. “By transferring them these new functions that belong to civilian authorities, we’re actively violating the Constitution and we’re actively undermining the rule of law.”

In Why Mexico Is Militarizing, we explain the immediate and potential long-term consequences of this concentration of power, and why the emphasis on infrastructure over law enforcement is causing many Mexicans to worry about their safety.

Read More: AMLO Expanded Mexico’s Military. It Built Airports Instead of Reining In Murders

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