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Mexico's New Airport Security Measures: A Bold Approach with Uncertain Outcomes

Photo: ABC News

  • What airport measures has the Mexican government announced?

The Mexican government has announced that it will delegate all aspects of airport security to the Mexican military at six major airports. The Mexican Navy will screen passengers, inspect baggage, and patrol grounds. Earlier this year, the Mexican military secured Mexico City International Airport. According to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the military’s power will increase to combat crime and corruption as it is more transparent than the civilian police. 

  • Why are these newly implemented airport measures being implemented? 

In 2021, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico to Category 2. The FAA found that Mexico’s airports did not comply with international aviation oversight standards. The FAA cited rampant drug trafficking, extortion, and human trafficking as reasons for Mexico’s demotion. With corruption prevalent in Mexico, these practices would only worsen over time. AMLO wants Mexico to regain its Category 1 status. A Category 1 rating means that the aviation oversight system is equal to that of the US. Category 1 would allow Mexican airlines to add more flights to the US. Worldwide tourism would also increase since Mexico’s reputation would be on par with safer countries. 

  • What are some concerns about this policy shift? 

AMLO's announcement has raised several concerns among Mexicans. For one, many Mexicans believe this measure signifies a more authoritative government. By militarizing airports, this decision militarizes Mexican civilian life which many Mexicans do not want. Rogelio Rodríguez Garduño, an aviation law expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, says the Mexico City takeover runs against international aviation recommendations that distinguish civilians and the military. Another concern is potential human rights abuses against civilians. The Mexican military has committed human rights abuses in the past. With more power, more human rights abuses might arise. Combined with the government's corruption history, these human rights abuses may be downplayed and even ignored. 

  • What are the potential benefits and improvements needed? 

Rear Admiral Carlos Velázquez Tiscareño, Mexico City's International Airport director, supports these measures. Tiscareño says naval oversight has helped reduce illegal businesses inside the airport, stolen luggage, and improved inspections. The Mexican Navy is the most transparent wing of Mexican forces. By having aviation controlled by the most reliable government branch, oversight at Mexican airports could see substantial improvements nationwide. Furthermore, Rodriguez Garduo says more funding, training, and inspection regimes are needed for Mexican airports to be more internationally competitive.

AMLO's approach to strengthening Mexico’s aviation oversight system is unorthodox. However, this might be needed for real change at Mexican airports. While naval control at Mexico City International Airport works, nationwide implementation will be challenging. AMLO and the Navy must take all the proper steps to restore Mexico's Category 1 status.  

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