Mexican authorities stop a migrant caravan that had earlier crossed the Mexico - Guatemala border, near Metapa, Chiapas state, Mexico, Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

© 2019 AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced that the country would send 6,000 National Guard troops to the country’s southern border to contain irregular migration from Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras. Mexico’s long and ugly history of abuses linked to militarized policing makes it easy to see that this could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Successive administrations in Mexico have justified using the armed forces for public security operations on the grounds that they’re needed to confront heavily armed and extremely violent criminal drug cartels. Yet this militarized approach to policing has only contributed to increased violence and resulted in widespread human rights abuses. 

The National Guard, created by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to replace the federal police, represents an extension of this militarization of public security. The Guard, which is slated to be inaugurated officially on June 30, will be comprised largely of military troops and led by an army general who is currently on active duty.

If the López Obrador administration follows through on this plan, it will mean deploying essentially a military force not against violent criminal organizations, but rather against impoverished families and their children, many of whom are fleeing persecution by such violent groups.

Mexico is entitled to secure its borders, but it is hard to think of a less appropriate test for its new National Guard. Given the deplorable human rights record of Mexican security forces in recent years – and especially the military – it’s predictable that the deployment will result in serious abuses.