(Bloomberg) -- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador applauded the country’s Senate Wednesday for passing a bill to extend the military’s presence in the streets until 2028, even as the army faces scrutiny for its role in a horrific 2014 massacre and after a leak of millions of documents in a wide-ranging hack.
The bill would allow Mexico’s armed forces to play a central role in public safety for six more years, while Lopez Obrador’s national guard builds out its capabilities. Lopez Obrador has drastically deepened the army’s presence in public life since taking office in late 2018, having put the country’s ports and customs under military authority and used it to build big public works projects.
“This is about public security, it’s about protecting citizens,” Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, said at a daily press conference. “We are serving the people, serving the young and guaranteeing the right to education.”
The Senate passed the legislation late Tuesday with the two-thirds majority required for constitutional changes. Some opposition lawmakers supported the bill after an effort to vote it through stalled weeks earlier. It now goes back to the lower house, which passed an earlier version, to approve changes.
Read More: Students’ Massacre Casts Long Shadow on AMLO’s Bid to Boost Army
Despite campaigning on a promise to de-militarize Mexico, Lopez Obrador has come under attack from human rights groups and from within his own government for propelling the armed forces into ever more aspects of Mexican society. His transport minister quit in 2020 when the president ordered that the navy take charge of the country’s ports. Most recently he’s considering creating a new airline run by the army.
Lopez Obrador defended the military as an institution and instead criticized individual actors last month when a truth commission he created found that an army colonel allegedly ordered the murder of six of the 43 students who went missing in the 2014 Ayotzinapa kidnapping. At the same time, the Defense Ministry was blindsided by local news organizations publishing information obtained by hackers about sensitive issues like Lopez Obrador’s health.
Read More: Hackers Get Information from Mexico’s Defense Ministry
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