While Congress Pushes Repressive Security Law, Armed Soldiers in Mexico City Enter National University
By Fernando León Special to The Narco News Bulletin
April 26, 2011
The violation of the autonomy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM in Spanish initials) can now be added to the long list of violations that the Mexican armed forces have committed since the “war on drugs” was imposed by Mexican President Felipe Calderón in 2006. Last Tuesday, April 19, a military vehicle with eight armed soldiers traveled inside the university, clearly violating the autonomy that is guaranteed under Mexican law.
The last time armed soldiers entered the country’s most renowned academic institution was in July 1968. However, at approximately 1:37 p.m. last Tuesday Mexican soldiers entered the university with the supposed purpose of bringing a dog’s cadaver in for an autopsy at the Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science Faculty (FMVZ in Spanish initials) building.
That afternoon, a group of students with the Metropolitan Student Committee were driving around the campus when they ran into a military vehicle with the plate number 1620363 near the FMVZ. As can be seen in the video below, the students follow a vehicle carrying eight uniformed and visibly armed soldiers to the faculty entrance. The military truck was escorted by a car with the General Services Department of UNAM no. 36, with Mexico City plate number 725 WLS. When students inquired why the soldiers were there, university officials “said they were bringing a dog,” according to the committee.
This action represents a clear violation of university autonomy that was declared in 1929, which according to the Institute of Legal Investigations at UNAM, “is a power that the state grants the university through a law, so that it may dictate upon itself the rules that govern the organization and internal affairs without interference from the state.”
In an interview with Narco News, Martha Trejo, press secretary for the FMVZ, commented that “some soldiers brought the cadaver of a 7-month-old Belgian Shepherd named ‘Magra’ to the school to request an autopsy, which was provided to them.” According to the official, “this is not the first time that we have provided care for military animals.” However, Trejo said “it was unwise for them to have been in uniforms and an official vehicle, but you must understand, to avoid it is beyond our reach, we are suggesting that [the soldiers] don’t do this kind of thing again for future visits.” According to her, the FMVZ “has never been provoked like this before.”
This morning this newspaper attempted to communicate with UNAM Attorney General Luis Raúl González to know the university’s position on the flagrant violation. However, he didn’t take the call because, according to his secretary, “the attorney doesn’t give interviews.”
According to accountant Ariel Maldonado, spokesman for the General Directorate of Social Communications at UNAM, “we don’t know anything about soldiers driving around here,” and he mentioned that “we would be aware of something like this.” Maldonado commented that “if that had happened, without our permission, it is a violation of autonomy.”
On top of that, this week the Mexican Congress is debating a proposal by lawmakers to grant special roles to the Mexican Army under a National Security Law. According to the bill, the reform would “open up the possibility that the president could request and declare the intervention of the armed forces against movements or during political conflicts…when they are considered to be a threat to the security of the entire country.”
According to Trejo’s statement this is not the first that time this has happened, at least not with weapons, but the question remains: Is such a military mechanism necessary to transport the body of a dog and violate the autonomy of the university? For university professor Dr. Adolfo Gilly it is a very strange maneuver since “what is surprising is that the soldiers are so kind to bring a dog to the vet.”
Currently, the Mexican armed forces have fallen under public scrutiny due to their participation in the Calderón’s “war against drugs.” To date, those who have died in drug war related violence have reached 40,000 in just four years. The soldiers entering UNAM represent only a small picture of the impunity with which the Mexican Army maneuvers. However, in recent days more than thirty cities in Mexico and around the world have demanded an end to the war and the militarization of the country, calling for a mass mobilization on May 8 to the zócalo in Mexico City.