Use of Mexico’s Marines in Drug Ops Down 40% Under Peña Nieto

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The number of Marines involved in counternarcotics operations in Mexico has fallen 40 percent since Enrique Peña Nieto took power, in another sign of Mexico’s shifting security priorities.

Under Mexico’s previous president, Felipe Calderon, the Marines grew to have over 20,000 active agents, many of whom were used in counternarcotics operations including raids targeting top drug traffickers and “high impact” deployments to violent hotspots.

However, since the start of last December, when Peña Nieto assumed the presidency, the number of Marines involved in counter-narcotics operations has dropped to just over 14,000 — a 40 percent reduction on November’s levels, reported La Jornada.

According to naval sources consulted by La Jornada, the reduction is part of the strategy being implemented by new Navy Commander Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz, which is more focused on intelligence gathering.

InSight Crime Analysis

The fact that the use of the Marines in such operations has dropped under Peña Nieto fits with his revised security strategy, which is moving away from the type of dramatic and confrontational military operations the marines specialized in. Instead, Peña Nieto says he plans to take a less militaristic approach focused more on prevention.

The new president is also planning to deploy a gendarmarie to hotspots. It’s not clear if this will be in addition to, or a replacement for, the vast military presence in numerous areas where organized crime is battling with each other and the state. 

The Marines have been the US government’s top ally in its fight against organized crime in recent years. But they have also come under scrutiny for their possible participation in human rights violations, something that may give the US pause when it considers further assistance to Mexico in its war on drug trafficking organizations.

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