The Mexican Congress is currently writing a new Interior Security bill that will legalize armed intervention by the Army and Navy against criminal organizations.
For years now armed forces officials have been asking for this legislation particularly now that their participation is being more open and public.
If approved, the Interior Security bill will legalize their participation in police work. An absence of proper legal status is currently raising a lot of questions about the legality of their actions and suits of human rights violations are raining upon the armed forces.
Their participation is seen as supporting state and municipal police departments who have often been outgunned by organized criminals.
One such incident happened a week ago in the city of Tepic, State of Nayarit, in which 15 marines carried out a police operation against a group of alleged drug traffickers. The marines went in to serve an arrest warrant and were received by high-caliber gun fire. The 15 marines repeatedly told the shooters who they were and told them to drop their weapons and not to resist arrest.
The men inside the house trenched up and began shooting down from the roof. At this point the marines requested air assistance and a Navy helicopter showed up, took position on top of the roof and began shooting the men with a .50 caliber Barrett machine gun killing from the rooftop.
The fire from the triggered chopper was aired on public newscasts. The machine gun fire only lasted seven seconds to finish off the enemies. And the public in general got to watch true carnage, as the end result was that 13 criminals died on the spot including drug kingpin Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez.
The news broke out that there were minors among those killed, forcing Nayarit state governor Roberto Sandoval to acknowledge that the marinos participated in two different shootouts with the gang, killing eight people at the security house and four more near the Tepic airport and that three more bodies had been found apparently killed by the group of criminals, for a grand total of 15 criminals dead.
But the sole mention of a minor forced Navy Secretary Vidal Soberón to issue a public statement denying the participation and killing of any minors.
The only thing the public was viewing was those seven seconds of machine gun fire that forced the bad guys off the rooftop; the shootout lasted several hours, Admiral Soberón said.
Over the past week there have been open accusations that those seven seconds of machine gun fire were “excessive use of force” by the elite marine platoon who had been tracking down the group of drug traffickers belonging to the Beltrán Leyva organization for several months.
But way deep down is the question as to the legality of the armed intervention by the Navy officials who participated in the Tepic shootout.
Back at the Chamber of Deputies leader of the majority Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Cesar Camacho is working on the Interior Security bill to give the armed forces permission to intervene as a backup to state and municipal police. One of the clauses will read that their participation will have to be requested by the state governor.
The one legal problem with the Nayarit case is that even if Gov. Roberto Sandoval admitted to having solicited the marines’ intervention, the future Interior Security bill is not a law yet, therefore it does not exist and under current circumstances their presence as a police force is in violation of military laws.
Another point that is being made is that the attempted arrest of this particular criminal gang might have been carried out to appease U.S President Donald Trump who personally told President Enrique Peña Nieto (see my column Quoting Trump, Feb.2) if he needed help to “knock out” some “tough hombres” dedicated to smuggling drugs into the United States he could send it.
Of course, that was an unacceptable offer, but people still read into the Nayarit incident a potential influence directly from POTUS.
In any case, the Interior Security bill is a must to define and regulate the legal participation by the Army and the Navy in what otherwise is civilian police work.