Last week, just five days before the vote that will decide the formation of a National Guard, Ambulante screened Hasta los dientes (Armed to the Teeth) in front of a public audience at the Aurora Jiménez Auditorium inside the San Lázaro Legislative Palace—in collaboration with the Morena representative Martha Tagle.
The screening was followed by a panel which enabled debate on the looming possible militarization of the country’s plan for public safety. Moderated by Diego Luna, founder of Ambulante, participants of the panel included: Martha Tagle, representatives Tatiana Clouthier and Sandra Paola González, Ibero-American University Citizenship Security Program coordinator Ernesto López Portillo, director of the film Alberto Arnaut, and Lucía Baca, mother of Alejandro Baca (who disappeared in January 2011 on a highway towards Monterrey).
As the credits of the documentary rolled, an intense silence enveloped the audience as they digested and grappled with the matter at hand. As he introduced Lucía, Diego reiterated that
The most qualified voices are those of the victims.”
Numbers and statistics fall short especially in front of the stories and experiences of those who have gone through the unimaginable.
Baca said she saw herself reflected in the documentary for all that she has gone through in losing and searching for her son. She believes that the National Guard will just be “more of the same.” “More aggressions, more violence, more assassinations if the military stays on the streets. I don’t think they’re going to control anything.” Though she said that she is “just a housewife,” she has now dedicated her life to this cause because thousands of families are going through the same. She thanked the documentary for keeping the memories of Jorge and Javier alive, as well as highlighting the pain of the families, especially because many people forget too easily. As a desperate mother she asks for only one thing: “No forgiveness, no forgetting. Justice. We want justice.”
Asking the panelists what they thought about President López Obrador’s change of stance regarding the National Guard, Diego quoted one of the president’s campaign speeches from January 2018: “You can’t fight violence with violence. You can’t fight fire with fire. You can’t fight bad with bad. We’re going to place emphasis on public safety. Let’s integrate this National Guard because it does not necessitate a constitutional reform.”
Diego brought López Obrador’s new position into question, stating that he didn’t understand it: “I heard much talk during the campaign about gradually returning the military to the barracks, and all of a sudden, he changed position. He changed position after the great majority of the electorate voted for him, and to this day, I don’t know why.”
Reflecting on her own stance on the matter, representative Tatiana Clouthier noted that it is up to her and her fellow members of congress to decide how to bring forth a plan for security that differs from the current one. Alluding to Lucía’s earlier commentary, Clouthier noted, “I am also not an expert. I, too, am a housewife— I am not a lawyer, but I have common sense. And common sense tells me what the movie shows me, and it says that this is not the way to go.”
Tagle supported this opinion, arguing that the establishment of the national guard is not the way to ensure peace, safety, and the end of violence. Stating that this decision is in the legislature’s playing field, she emphasized the importance of granting the possibility of justice to the families of the disappeared, and granting the possibility of safety without war to all.
This week, the lower chamber of the Mexican legislature will be voting on whether to amend the constitution to allow for the creation of the National Guard, which would consist of the military, naval officers, and the federal police.