Mexico City’s main airport, along with several others across the country, is now under the control of Mexico’s armed forces, signaling the government’s determined stand against corruption and mismanagement, Your Content has learned.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been progressively assigning nontraditional roles to the military since his election in 2018, raising concerns about the military’s separation from civilian life.
A year ago, the army constructed a new airport outside Mexico City at a staggering cost of $4.1 billion.
Although it is currently under military management, the airport remains underutilized. President López Obrador plans to assign control of the country’s busiest airport to the navy.
The navy assumed security responsibilities at Mexico City International Airport, commonly known as Benito Juárez, over a year ago.
With an upcoming presidential order, the navy will extend its control to include customs and immigration procedures, luggage handling, and maintenance of sanitary facilities.
The airport has also been plagued by reports of stolen luggage, poorly managed flight schedules, business operations lacking contracts, and corruption.
Simultaneously, President López Obrador has sought the assistance of the armed forces for various tasks during his term, including immigration duties, port and customs control, and significant infrastructure projects like the Yucatan Peninsula tourist train and a new airport in the same region.
The military is even involved in running plant nurseries and organizing tourist trips to a former penal colony.
The airport, catering to approximately 4 million monthly travelers, will function as a “company within a naval military entity,” explained Rear Adm. Carlos Velázquez Tiscareño, the 73-year-old director of the airport.
He emphasized that it would not resemble a typical military department. While the National Guard troops handle passenger tickets at the gate of Felipe Angeles Airport, at Benito Juarez, the only uniformed military presence comprises 1,500 marines responsible for security.
The remaining airport staff will be civilians but operating under “clearer rules” that prioritize order and discipline, according to Velázquez Tiscareño.
The navy will establish a company called Casiopea to oversee the management of Benito Juárez Airport and six others currently plagued by deficiencies and organized crime, including Matamoros, situated across the Texas border, and Playa del Carmen on the Gulf of Mexico.
President López Obrador has announced plans to transfer control of a dozen airports to the army or navy by the end of his term in 2024. Additionally, the military is scheduled to commence its own commercial airline operations by the end of this year.
Critics argue that Mexico City’s takeover of the airport goes against international aviation recommendations, which clearly differentiate between military and civilian entities. The legal implications of this move remain uncertain, particularly after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that transferring the National Guard to military control was unconstitutional.
López Obrador ultimately kept the guard under civilian oversight but appointed a military operational chief.
While navy control might improve certain security issues, experts doubt its effectiveness in addressing other problems. In 2021, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating, preventing Mexican airlines from expanding their U.S. flights.
It is important to note, however, that FAA safety ratings of countries evaluate their oversight of airlines and not the airlines’ safety themselves.
Corruption within Mexico’s aviation sector reached a point where coded messages were reportedly used through internal airport communications to facilitate undetected drug shipments, as revealed during the U.S. trial of former Public Security Secretary Genaro Luna, who was convicted of drug trafficking in February.
Mexico City possesses the country’s most significant airport, and the navy is the branch of the Mexican security forces that U.S. authorities trust the most. However, the United States has yet to comment on the expanding power of the Mexican military.
“The country has faced significant issues with multiple airports for many years, and they needed to be addressed,” stated Velázquez Tiscareño, who is a retired pilot himself.
Over the past year, the navy’s security measures have resulted in the closure of illegal businesses within the airport, improved inspections, and a reduction in stolen luggage.
Some airport employees confirm these improvements but also note persistent complaints about flight delays.
While there is hope that the navy’s involvement will bring more stability, aviation experts assert that Mexican aviation requires additional funding, training, and improved inspection protocols to enhance its competitiveness globally.
It remains uncertain if the military alone can effectively address all these challenges, according to ABC News.