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Mexico: Amendment Reforming National Security Law Approved

(Jan. 25, 2021) On December 15, 2020, the House of Representatives of the Mexican Congress (Cámara de Diputados) in a plenary session approved an amendment to the National Security Law. The reform was approved with 329 votes in favor, 98 against, and 40 abstentions.

The bill had already been approved by the Senate and, with its approval by the House of Representatives, has been sent to the president for his signature.

The National Security Law regulates the intelligence activities of foreign countries in Mexico. The reform establishes that the secretary of foreign relations (SRE) will regulate and limit the activities in Mexico of foreign agents from agencies such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Central Intelligence Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Under the new legislation, foreign agents may be authorized to temporarily enter Mexico for the purpose of exchanging information with the Mexican government, within the framework of the bilateral cooperation agreements and programs signed with Mexico on security matters. Under article 69 of the reform, the SRE, with the prior agreement of the secretaries of security, national defense, and the navy, will decide on the accreditation and territorial circumscription of the foreign agent in question, taking into account the bilateral reciprocity.

The reform requires foreign agents to share information with the Mexican government. It also requires that Mexican officials obtain permission from a security panel before meeting with foreign agents and then inform the SRE and the secretary of security and citizen protection what was discussed. Moreover, public servants, including those from the states, municipalities, and Mexico City, must deliver a written report to the SRE and the Secretariat for Citizen Security and Protection within three days of any meetings, information exchanges, telephone calls, or communications that they have had with foreign agents.

Under the reform, foreign agents will not have any immunity from prosecution for any crimes they commit while in the country. According to the president of the Senate Political Coordination Board (Junta de Coordinación Política), Ricardo Monreal, this reform, proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, seeks to regulate agencies such as the DEA because, even though the DEA has 11 offices in Mexico, the Mexican government does not know the number of agents operating in the country, the information generated by these agents, and to whom this information is delivered. Senator Monreal added that “[t]his lack of knowledge, like some excesses that were committed by foreign agents, shows that for more than 100 years the presence of foreign agents in Mexico has not been regulated, it has remained in the dark, and many times the authorities denied that these foreign agents existed. They are nothing but serious violations of our bilateral relationship.” The senator further stated that through this reform of the National Security Law, the government seeks to strengthen respect for the country’s sovereignty and national security.

According to the reform, the foreign embassies and missions accredited in the country must inform the corresponding Mexican authorities of the facts of which they come to know while performing functions derived from the bilateral cooperation agreements signed by the Mexican government and the bilateral security programs in which Mexico participates.