On January 8, 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador inaugurated the facilities of the Secretariat of the National Defense’s Joint Training Center for Peacekeeping Operations (CECOPAM, in Spanish) in Huehuetoca, Mexico.
In 2015, the country resumed its participation in United Nations (U.N.) led peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations.
“For our troops to take part in peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations, we must have the approval of the country that will receive assistance in the event of a humanitarian crisis,” Mexican Army Lieutenant Colonel Vitalio Pineda Díaz, head of CECOPAM, told Diálogo. “As such, we do not violate the state’s foreign policy of nonintervention and people’s right to self-determination, enforced since 1914.”
So far, CECOPAM has trained 350 service members from Mexico and other partner nations in other facilities. Currently, 12 Mexican service members, among those five women, are deployed as observers in U.N. missions in Colombia, Mali, the Central African Republic, and Western Sahara.
“Our missions require increasingly sophisticated resources, including equipment, specialized personnel, and specific skills,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, U.N. under-secretary general for Peace Operations, at the center’s inauguration ceremony. “Mexico can be a great contributor to satisfy these needs.”
Lt. Col. Pineda said that the Army could initially send an engineer company to help rebuild the requesting nation’s infrastructure damaged by natural or man-made disasters.
In addition to training military, law enforcement, and civil personnel on how to operate in challenging and hostile environments, CECOPAM “provides a panorama that differs from what a typical Mexican soldier is used to. It gives us the opportunity to be more tolerant and to specialize in the legal use of force, human rights, and international humanitarian law — foundations to improve the country’s domestic peace,” said Lt. Col. Pineda.
The lessons learned in peacekeeping operations are valuable to provide comprehensive assistance in armed conflicts and post-conflicts. “The Mexican government must use the tools and capabilities it has through CECOPAM,” Yadira Gálvez, a specialist in security affairs and a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Diálogo.
“Mexico could adapt these new skills to address the domestic violence crisis, if it’s seen as a process related to criminal violence and not as a peacekeeping process in the traditional sense,” Gálvez added. “Brazil is an example of how to adapt lessons learned, through its participation in peacekeeping missions, in recovering the favelas [slums].”
“It’s an honor for the Mexican Armed Forces to take part in peacekeeping missions. We are aware of the responsibility this entails, and we resolutely accept it,” Mexican Army Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ernesto Gallegos deputy director of CECOPAM told Diálogo. “Working in a multinational and multicultural environment where every service member thinks differently is a challenge; however, all contingents work toward the same goal: world peace.”