Monday, March 21, 2016
Top Mexican General says Use of Military in Drug War a 'Mistake'
By Elise Ditta
The commander of Mexico's armed forces has said it was a mistake to deploy the country's military to combat drug trafficking in comments
heavily critical of the citizen security militarization policies that have become common in the region.
an interview with Pulso, the head of Mexico's National Defense Secretariat (Sedena), General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, said it had been wrong for the Mexican
military to "enter fully into combat against drug traffickers," which, he said, left the military with "a problem
that is not ours."
Cienfuegos said that sending "soldiers prepared for war" to confront criminals
with no military training has caused "serious problems," and admitted that tactics such as day time raids have left
the civilian population at risk.
The general added he believes the army should not be deployed in the streets
for the purpose of combatting crime as they are not prepared for the role.
"Not one of the people with responsibility
for this institution is prepared to carry out the functions of the police," he said. "We don't do that. We don't
ask for it. We have no taste for it and we are not comfortable in this role."
said, corruption in the police force meant that "if we don't do it, there is no one else who will."
general also defended the military against accusations of human rights abuses in the emblematic cases of the military's
alleged mass execution of 15 people in the town of Tlatlaya in June 2014, and accusations of armed forces' complicity in the disappearance of 43 students in the town of Iguala in September 2014.
Cienfuegos noted that four soldiers have been released without charges
in the Tlatlaya case, and three have yet to be tried. In the Iguala case, he stated that the armed forces have "absolutely
InSight Crime Analysis
The points raised by General Cienfuegos
echo the concerns of human rights monitors over the trend towards militarization of citizen security in Latin America. While
using soldiers in the fight against crime can be an attractive option in the short term, it often leads to an increase in human rights abuses, while taking resources and momentum away from police reform.
In Mexico, the military has been accused of a range of abuses, including excessive force, extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances,
and reports of these abuses have risen considerably since the military was deployed in the drug war, according to human rights
groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
See also: Coverage of Security Policy
Despite these concerns, Mexico is far from alone in pursuing a military solution to its security crisis. Currently, El Salvador has deployed military units to fight the growing gang violence in the country, while Honduras has also significantly expanded the role of the military in citizen security. There is little sign of this trend reversing, and in 2016 Argentina's incoming president, Mauricio Macri, declared a public national security emergency that could open the way for the country
to become the latest to militarize its anti-drug efforts.
This commentary, "Use
of Armed Forces in Drug War a 'Mistake' says Mexico Military Chief," by Elise Ditta, was first published in InSight Crime on Mar. 16, 2016 and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization. InSight Crime's objective
is to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.