HomeNewsAnalysisReport Finds Major Flaws in Proposals to Further Militarize Mexico’s Drug War
ANALYSIS

Report Finds Major Flaws in Proposals to Further Militarize Mexico's Drug War

HUMAN RIGHTS / 15 FEB 2017 BY DEBORAH BONELLO EN

A Senate report on recent proposals that apparently aim to regulate the role of Mexico's military in public security has concluded that the draft legislation would only grow the responsibility of the armed forces in the fight against organized crime.

The congressional study of different versions of the Internal Security Law that have been proposed by senators or deputies from three of the main political parties in Mexico also evaluates ten years of the country's drug war that has resulted in at least 100,000 deaths, a myriad of human rights abuses and an overall increase in violence.

The authors point out an important fact: that after a decade of a militarized drug war there is still no adequate public data or evaluation of the military's role in the campaign against organized crime. Neither, they claim, is there solid evidence available to explain why the Federal Police and the gendarmerie, a new militarized police force created by President Enrique Peña Nieto, are insufficient tools for fighting organized crime without support from the armed forces.

The report goes on to argue that from the beginning, there was never any justification for dispatching the country's military in the drug war. When then-president Felipe Calderón took power at the end of 2006, after a controversial election, the authors of the report say that the nation was enjoying "historic lows" in homicides. One of Calderón's first actions in office was to send thousands of soldiers to his home state of Michoacán, which remains one of the most violent in the country. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

"It was after the start of the permanent operations [of the military] that a real epidemic of violence occurred at a national level, rising to 27,000 homicides in 2011," argue the authors of the report (pdf) from the Belisario Domínguez Institute, which is housed within the Senate. "Between 2007 and 2011 the level of homicides tripled (from 9,000 to 27,000) and the homicide rate went from 8.1 to 23.7 homicides per 100,000."

The investigators conclude that the lack of solid evidence to evaluate the role of the military compared with Mexico's various police forces points to not only a lack of accountability and transparency, but a tendency for legislators to carry out debates and make decisions based on personal convictions and ideologies rather than facts and research.

The "drastic rise" in violence that has taken place since the start of the military campaign is proof that Mexico needs a more controlled approach to the use of the military for public security, they argue, as well as a systematic evaluation of its activities. But the new proposals to regulate the military fall short of these goals, the report concludes.

The authors say that the legislation, as currently drafted, would offer too much discretion to decision makers due to the ambiguous and vague wording of the proposals. What's more, they argue that the proposals do nothing to address the concerns laid out above.

InSight Crime Analysis

Such a negative report from an investigative team attached to the nation's Senate is a damning indictment of lawmakers' disregard for evidence while drafting security policies. 

Human rights defenders and critics of the drug war, which has taken a huge toll on the Mexican population in the last decade, will feel vindicated by the study. Ultimately, it advises congress to seek alternatives to militarization and to pursue a strategy to eventually pull the military off the streets -- a process which Interior Secretary Osorio Chong claims has already begun, and something Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos supports.

But as is often the case in countries where the armed forces are relied on to provide a public security role, it is hard for that baton to be passed back to police forces that have previously been determined incapable of dealing with the challenge.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

In the case of Mexico, the public perception that police forces at all levels -- municipal, state and federal -- are corrupt, co-opted and unprepared to deal with the problem of organized crime are backed up by data and fed by extreme, high-profile examples of police collusion with organized crime and widespread incompetence.

Whether the police are any more capable of combating organized crime now than they were before, or cause just as many problems as the armed forces in that role, is a question worth investigating. Police reform has been attempted, unsuccessfully, by every Mexican president since José López Portillo (1976-1982), according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). However, those same Mexican presidents also significantly expanded the military's role in public security.

Until authorities make greater progress on police reform, it is unlikely that Mexico's decision makers will back away from the militarized strategy against organized crime. And as long as there is no official measure taken of improvements in the police forces, authorities will forever be able to justify sending the military to do their job.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GULF CARTEL / 17 JAN 2013

A high ranking member of Mexico's Gulf Cartel has reportedly been assassinated near the group's northern…

COLOMBIA / 26 APR 2017

A new report by a leading Colombian think tank maps the concentration of homicides in the country's largest cities, highlighting…

EL CHAPO / 10 JAN 2013

The US Treasury added the father-in-law of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the so-called…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.