By Noe Torres
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday asked Senate lawmakers to include civil society’s views in their discussion of a divisive bill that critics say would give the military greater powers and deepen its role in the country’s drug war.
The bill, which enjoys cross-partisan support, aims to regulate federal defence forces’ involvement in the drug war, which has claimed well over 100,000 lives in the last decade.
But the United Nations, Amnesty International and Mexican human rights organisation have all criticized the bill for prioritising the military instead of seeking to improve Mexico’s police.
Pena Nieto’s unusual comments reflect the growing international pressure his government has come under over.
“I’d like to make a call to the Senate to broaden the space for dialogue with civil society organizations in order to hear all voices and enrich what will eventually be decided,” the president said at a human rights event in Mexico City.
The bill has already passed the lower house, and is due to be discussed in the Senate next week, but could potentially be delayed in the wake of Pena Nieto’s comments.
Lawmakers who support the bill say it will give clear rules that limit the use of soldiers to fight crime.
However, rights campaigners worry the law opens the door to military intervention in protests, as well as expanding military powers to spy on citizens.
It is opposed by the party of leftist presidential frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which has only a handful of senators.
The bill comes during a particularly violent year, with the 2017 murder tally almost certain to be the highest since modern records began twenty years ago.
(Reporting by Noe Torres, Writing by Gabriel Stargardter, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)