Mexico Army Hides Number of Civilians Killed by Armed Forces

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For the past four years, the army has refused to reveal the number of civilians killed by members of the military. The justification offered is that “the army’s jurisdiction is not entitled to possess information” on such matters.

For instance, upon reviewing the available information on the number of civilians killed by the army one realizes that the deaths of 22 individuals who were killed on June 30, 2014 in Tlatlaya, in the State of Mexico, have not been reported. All members of the armed forces who have been imprisoned for their connection with the event are now free, even though according to the National Commission for Human Rights 15 of these executions were carried out in extra-judicial circumstances.

The death of a community policeman that took place on January 13, 2014 in the village of Antúnez, Michoacán, has not been reported either. An army man “accidentally” shot a member of a local self-defense group who happened to be unarmed. These are just two examples among several other similar cases.

*This article was translated, edited for clarity and length and published with the permission of Animal Político. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here

Upon being questioned on the subject, the army provided data on the casualties that took place during the six years of Felipe Calderón’s administration — but refuses to provide information for the following six years.

Hidden Numbers?

On October 10, through a public information request, Animal Politico asked the armed forces to reveal the amount of money they had paid to the families of the victims who died during the past 10 years of war against drug-traffickers, as well as the total number of casualties.

The army provided information on the money paid for the deaths of 12 civilians who were killed between 2008 and 2011. Information related to the current administration, however, was not revealed.

Nonetheless, official information on the subject does exist. Thanks to the requests for transparency it has received, the army has revealed the amount of money paid to the families of civilians killed during the current administration. However, it has not made public the total number of casualties.

For instance, the armed forces have revealed they have processed 32 payments to repair damages caused, for a total of 7.8 million pesos (roughly $380,000). Ten of such payments were linked with operations they reportedly carried out in Tamaulipas, six in Michoacán, five in Guerrero and the rest in the states of Zacatecas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Michoacán and Sinaloa.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The last public official data on the number of casualties caused dates back to August 2012, when the army reported the deaths of 56 individuals who did not belong to drug trafficking organizations, and the deaths of 2,959 other civilians as a result of different attacks.

Despite the fact that the National Institute for the Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (Instituto Nacional de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Personales – INAI) has asked the armed forces at least twice to reveal more information on the subject, the army has refused to report the total number of civilian deaths.

The army seems to justify its unwillingness to reveal more information on the casualties on the basis that, as of 2012, due to the dispositions of the Supreme Court of Justice and the June 13, 2014 reforms to the Military Justice Code, “the military jurisdiction is not entitled to possess information with respect to civilian victims because this would constitute a violation of their human rights.” This would appear to be the reason why they do not keep statistics on the subject.

The Army’s Victims

According to the information the army has provided after a request for transparency was issued by Animal Politico, 489 members of the armed forces have been killed between December 1, 2006 and October 31, 2016. Of the several different reasons behind their deaths, firearms deaths and executions amount for 57 percent of all casualties.

In the early hours of September 30, a military convoy that was carrying an alleged drug trafficker was the victim of an ambush in Culiacán, Sinaloa. As a result of the attack, a deputy sergeant, three sergeants, a private and a civilian were killed.

The ambush was yet another attack carried out against the armed forces in Culiacán. The area is the second-deadliest zone for the army, second only to Tamaulipas, which has registered the death of 60 soldiers in the space of 10 years as a result of the war against drug-traffickers.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights

While the army allegedly does not keep statistics on the number of civilians killed, it possesses detailed information with respect to the compensations paid to the families of deceased soldiers. An estimated 121.8 million pesos (about $6 million) have been paid in life insurance claims during this time period.

Out of 217 soldiers killed, lower-ranking army members killed during anti-drug operations have received a total of 50.7 million pesos (about $2.5 million), as opposed to the 2.1 million pesos (about $100,000) which were given to the individual families of the highest-ranking casualties: three colonels.

This appears to suggest that while the life of a private is worth an estimated 233,000 pesos (roughly $11,500), a colonel’s is worth 725,000 pesos (roughly $35,500), about 300 percent more.

*This article was translated, edited for clarity and length and published with the permission of Animal Político. It does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime. See the Spanish original here.  

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