The role of the army in the current administration has become a central issue in discussions in Mexico .
The decisions of President López Obrador have sparked controversy over the participation of the army within the current Mexican government. / Photo: Reuters
LatinamericanPost| Luis Angel Hernández Liborio
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Leer en español: El nuevo aeropuerto de México, construido por el Ejército Mexicano
The Mexican Army has become a crucial tool for the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has benefited from their support in all areas to carry out his vision of the transformation of the country. It was recently revealed that the profits obtained at the new "Felipe Ángeles" airport will go to the Mexican Army , which has sparked a discussion about the role that the armed forces are playing in the current government.
"Felipe Ángeles" International Airport (AIFA)
From his presidential campaign, López Obrador made it clear that the New Mexico City International Airport (NAICM) project would be stopped. NAICM was destined to become one of the largest airports in the world, however, López Obrador denounced that the costs were too high for a country with high levels of poverty and that there was corruption in contracts. For the then-candidate, NAICM was a luxury that the country could not afford.
When he became president in late 2018, one of his first actions was to cancel the NAICM, with the costs involved in canceling current contracts and without being able to verify the corruption he was denouncing. The alternative that the president gave was to use the Santa Lucía Military Base as a civil airport, with this he intends to create an airport system for the Mexican capital. This system will be made up of the current Mexico City International Airport (AICM), the Toluca International Airport and the "Felipe Ángeles" International Airport (the Santa Lucía Military Base) instead of a large airport.
López Obrador argued at the time that it was less expensive to cancel the NAICM and build the AIFA than to continue with the work of the former . To achieve that goal, he had an "ace up his sleeve": the Mexican Army. As Santa Lucia was a military base, the president left the construction of the "Felipe Ángeles" airport to them, which earned him severe criticism, especially from the opposition. Faced with attempts by business owners of NAICM contracts to stop AIFA, López Obrador decided to use the national security argument to continue with his plan . AIFA is scheduled to open on March 21, 2022, in record time. The date is not random, on March 21 the birthday of Benito Juárez is celebrated, one of the historical references of President López Obrador.
AIFA, the tip of the iceberg
Mexico has not participated in a war since World War II, since then, except for some dark episodes, the role of the armed forces has focused on supporting the population in disasters and internal security work, especially against drug trafficking. During his campaign, López Obrador was negative towards the armed forces, although when he became president he changed his position radically. The army has become a fundamental support for his government , for example, during the shortage of gasoline that the country experienced due to the fight against the theft of gasoline, the government of Mexico bought pipes that would be operated by the army, in order to improve supply.
#NDI El presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, informó que los ingenieros del Ejército que participan en la construcción del Aeropuerto Felipe Ángeles en Santa Lucía, también construirán dos "tramos grandes" del Tren Maya. pic.twitter.com/CQgSVXYZ6J— Raúl Brindis (@raulbrindis) March 18, 2020
AIFA is the largest project entrusted to the army so far, although what worries businessmen and the opposition is that López Obrador has left private initiative on the sidelines and has declared that the profits generated by AIFA will be entirely for the military . Mexico is one of the countries with the lowest GDP expenditure in its armed forces, which can be explained from its pacifist position. The war against drug trafficking waged by former President Felipe Calderón caused military spending to increase, but it remains low compared to other countries in the region such as Brazil, Colombia or Chile.
Gasto militar en América [en % del PIB]— DW Español (@dw_espanol) January 10, 2020
Colombia, EE.UU. 3,2
Brasil, Bolivia 1,5
El Salvador 1,0
Argentina, Paraguay 0,9
México, Venezuela 0,5
Costa Rica 0,0
Lista completa /e pic.twitter.com/fU7z1qvlGJ
The Mexican Armed Forces obtain financing through two secretariats of State: the Secretariat of National Defense (Army and Air Force) and the Secretary of the Navy, but thanks to their additional efforts, they obtain financing from the states and now they will also obtain it from AIFA . The transparency of these additional resources and their destination is one of the great unknowns of the armed forces in Mexico. The military enjoys prestige as one of the strongest institutions in the country, despite some episodes of repression. López Obrador takes advantage of part of that prestige to consolidate one of his emblematic works and at the same time win the sympathy of the army, which is living one of its best stages in decades, since none of the previous presidents had given them such independence, nor had they been allowed to be a central part of the government's strategy, beyond its security tasks. The president's urgency to carry out his transformation quickly and irreversibly could be one of the reasons why he has seen his best ally in the army.