Attorney Says Use of Military is Unconstitutional
(Acapulco, ElSur 4 August) In a luncheon address to Grupo Aca, a prominent service club, Eduardo López Betancourt Esq. urged the creation of a national police force, as the Mexican constitution, in his opinion, prohibits the use of the Army and Navy in the performance of police functions.
“Even though our society’s needs are great, in light of the violence we are facing throughout the country, and even though the actions of the military may be completely justifiable, the constitution does not make it legal,” he said. “Article 129 of the Constitution prohibits the military from performing civil police functions,” Dr. López remarked, “even if it be necessary to prevent the violation of individual rights.”
The attorney added that the Army and the Navy are not prepared, trained or equipped to perform police work or to carry out criminal investigations. It is a “necessary evil,” but you should not permit one evil to combat another. It would be preferable to establish an independent national police force and relieve the military of this additional, unconstitutional, assignment.
One of the troublesome consequences of disregard for the constitution’s prohibition is the disposition of soldiers accused of crimes while on civil police duty: are they to be tried in military or civilian tribunals? Recent decisions indicate that civilian tribunals have jurisdiction, even though commanders object to this invasion of their authority. Soldiers have been accused of theft, murder and rape while performing police functions, especially in the remote, highland villages where historically atrocities have been committed against indigenous peoples. Dr. López opined that the military tribunals would be more appropriate, and that “military tribunals are more honest.” Many citizens believe that in civil courts justice can often be purchased.
The United States Constitution has a provision similar to the one in the Mexican Constitution. As a result, the state governors may call upon the National Guard to respond to a need for domestic rescue and peacekeeping, but the national military may not be so assigned.