Mexican Peacekeeping Forces

When bringing up Mexico’s participation on the United Nations, most people assume México has a token representation at the UN. Most people are surprised to learn that México is a founding member of the United Nations charter and are even more surprised to learn that México has been deploying Mexican military personnel to UN peacekeeping forces in the last few years.

Although Mexico’s participation in the United Nations harkens back to the San Francisco conference that led to the creation of the United Nations after World War II, most readers assume that, at best, México has a token place in the UN. There are many reasons for this mindset, from Mexican inward-looking politics for many years and because we, as Mexicans, allow the Mexican narrative to be crafted by outsiders. Unbeknownst to most, México has been one of the world’s major contributors to the United Nation’s budget since 1946 and has participated in all major UN bodies, including the Security Council.

However, because of the Estrada Doctrine – the doctrine that all countries have the right to self-determination – México has resisted sending its military on UN peacekeeping missions. Budgetary considerations and the constitution’s limits on the deployment of the Mexican military outside of their military bases have also played a part in keeping the Mexican military outside of UN peacekeeping force deployments.

México deployed two military observers to Kashmir in the 1950s and followed that by deploying a small group of civilian police officers in 1992 and again in 1995. Other than that, México has resisted deploying military forces in support of UN operations.

That does not mean that México has remained oblivious to the UN mission. México is credited with denuclearizing Latin America. The 1968 Treaty of Tlatelolco prohibits nuclear weapons in all Latin America and in the Caribbean. Under the accord, nuclear weapons cannot be stored, manufactured or tested in Latin America. Alfonso García Robles was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982 for his work on the accord.

México also actively participated in resolving the numerous internal conflicts among Latin American countries in the 1980’s and ‘90s. In 1992, the peace agreement ending the El Salvador civil war was signed in Mexico City. México also participated in resolving the conflict in Guatemala.

Although El Salvador requested Mexican troops to safeguard the peace accords between it and the Marti Liberation Movement, or FMLN, México instead sent civilian police forces to help train El Salvador’s national police.

However, upon the election of Vicente Fox, México moved away from looking inward politically and started looking outward towards participating in global affairs. México served as a non-permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council twice, in 2002-2003 and again in 2009-2010.

During the prelude to the invasion of Iraq, ostensibly because of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s arsenal, then U.S. president George W. Bush was strong-arming Vicente Fox to support a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces. México was a key vote on the Security Council for the Iraq invasion. Although Bush threatened México’s refusal to vote “yes” on the resolution, in the end the Iraq invasion was launched without UN approval.

Vicente Fox has stated that his government’s refusal to support the Iraq invasion killed any attempt to negotiated immigration reform with the Bush Administration.

It was this lesson that kept México from expanding its participation in UN security operations, but it did not curtail it. Felipe Calderón agreed to allow México to serve in the UN Security Council again and participated in the 2010 Haiti earthquake humanitarian mission by providing logistical support through refueling stops for relief aircraft and ships. México also contributed $10.5 million in earthquake relief efforts.

On September 24, 2014, Enrique Peña Nieto announced that México would begin to “part in humanitarian tasks that benefit civil society” via the United Nations.

As Mexico’s economy has evolved into one of the top 12 economies of the world, it has moved away from an “emerging democracy” towards an “emerging power.”

Yes, you read that right, México is now an “emerging power” much to the chagrin of some readers who continue to believe that México is a “third-world country.”

Mexico’s economy is in par to the United Kingdom and Italy.

As an aside, as much as Donald Trump has been a thorn upon México, his antagonism has led México to move away from its dependence on the economy of the United States and further diversify. This past weekend, México and the European Community announced a trade deal. Such trade deals allow México to diversify its 80% dependent exports to the United States to other world economies further allowing the Mexican economy to grow. As the UK leaves the EU, its economy will likely soon be overtaken by México making México one of the top ten economies of the world.

Along with Mexico’s growing presence on the world stage, its participation at the United Nations is evolving into deploying Mexican military forces on UN Peacekeeping Missions.

In April 2015, México deployed two soldiers to Haiti and another pair to the Western Sahara. By December 2015, México had deployed about 20 Mexican soldiers in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, Haiti and the Western Sahara. The Mexican military told the news outlets that the deployments were “to continue the gradual process of Mexico’s incorporation into the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations Organization”.

These deployments were followed by further deployments of Mexican military personnel to UN missions in Colombia and the Central African Republic.

Mexico’s greater participation in UN peacekeeping missions continues to be limited by the constitution’s prohibition against deploying military forces without the permission of México’s Senate. Internal politics have made such permission difficult and it is likely that increased participation by México in UN peacekeeping missions will depend on the outcome of the upcoming national elections.

However, regardless of the outcome of the elections, México will continue to deploy forces in UN missions. The question, is how large will the forces be.

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