Mexican soldiers stand guard

Government data shows the current level of armed attacks against the military in Mexico remains historically high, comparable to the levels of violence in Colombia's low intensity conflict between the government and guerrilla forces.

Mexico's National Defense Ministry (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional - SEDENA), cited in Zócalo, show that while armed attacks against Mexico's military have significantly declined during the first three years of President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration compared to the last three years of his predecessor's term, the number of attacks remain at historically high levels. 

SEDENA reported 2,133 armed attacks against the military between 2010 and 2012, during former President Felipe Calderón's last three years in office, and 934 attacks between 2013 and 2015, during Peña Nieto's first three years in office. 

Despite the sharp decline, the number of attacks during Peña Nieto's first three years was more than two-and-a-half times greater than what it was during the first three years of Calderón's administration. From 2007 to 2009, SEDENA reported just 361 armed attacks against the military. 

In looking at comparison data from Colombia, between 2010 and 2012, Colombia's Center of Investigation and Popular Education (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular - CINEP) reported 1,204 armed confrontations between Colombian armed forces and guerrilla groups, down from 1,737 armed confrontations reported between 2007 and 2009.

In 2013, the latest year for which Colombian figures are available, CINEP reported 360 armed attacks in Colombia, compared to 482 attacks reported by SEDENA in Mexico during the same year. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

These are startling statistics. While we need to keep in mind that Mexico is double the size of Colombia, the fact that the confrontations with the government are roughly the same number as those in Colombia -- a country negotiating a peace settlement with insurgents -- reinforces a fundamental point about modern conflicts: they greatly resemble war in form if not in name.

The same has been said about El Salvador, where a multi-layered, low intensity conflict between street gangs and the government has made that country the most violent in the hemisphere. Through just five months of 2015, police were reporting more than 250 attacks on police in El Salvador.  

While the violent peak of armed conflicts between the military and organized crime organizations in Mexico seen between 2010 and 2012 may be in the past, the new normal is still historically high levels of armed confrontation, matching or exceeding the levels of armed conflict reported in countries purportedly at war.