In Historic U-Turn, Mexico to Join U.N. Peacekeeping Missions

After years of keeping out of the world’s conflicts, Mexico said on Wednesday it was ready to take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions, as the government steps up efforts to raise its profile on the global stage.

“Mexico has taken the decision to participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions, taking part in humanitarian tasks that benefit civil society,” Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told the U.N. General Assembly in a speech in New York.

Pursuing a traditionally low-key foreign policy, Mexico has only ever been involved in three peacekeeping missions, with the last being in El Salvador in 1992-1993 when it sent 120 police officers to the Central American country.

Pena Nieto belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for 71 years up to 2000.

Since recapturing the presidency in 2012, the PRI has sought to raise Mexico’s international standing. In his very first speech as president, Pena Nieto said making Mexico “an actor with global responsibility” was one of his key priorities.

Any future Mexican involvement in U.N. missions will require approval from the Senate.

The country will gradually begin participating in peacekeeping missions, sending soldiers or civil officials, including engineers, doctors, human rights experts and election observers, the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement.

Since World War II, Mexico’s military has not been involved in violent civil wars, unlike much of Central America.

However, in the last few years its military has been heavily involved in battling the country’s violent drug gangs, a conflict that has claimed more than 90,000 lives since 2007.

(Reporting by Anahi Rama; Writing Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dave Graham and Andre Grenon)

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