Mexico Congress votes to give armed forces airspace monitoring duties
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Congress on Wednesday approved a law giving the nation's armed forces a dominant role in airspace surveillance and defense, a measure proponents say is vital to national sovereignty and security.
The reform was sent to Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to be signed into law after being approved by the Senate, which is dominated by the ruling Morena party.
Mexico's defense ministry will now have under its command a new National Center for Surveillance and Protection of Airspace to monitor airspace and "inhibit and counteract" air operations that threaten national security, according to the document approved by legislators.
Opposition senators condemned the law and argued it weakens the civil authority in charge of airspace navigation and bolsters a military that has grown stronger under Lopez Obrador.
"Today the Armed Forces co-governs with Lopez Obrador," opposition Senator Emilio Alvarez said during debate on the matter.
Legislators in favor of the initiative argued it was about filling a legal vacuum to be able to confront organized crime and combat the illicit trafficking of goods.
After coming to power in December 2018, Lopez Obrador has increasingly placed the military in public security and other roles that are normally in the hands of civilians, such as infrastructure or customs activities.
(Reporting by Adriana Barrera; Editing by Tom Hogue)