Despite the heavy use of soldiers to support public security, a recent study has ranked Mexico third worldwide in terms of armed conflict deaths, surpassed only by war-torn Syria and Iraq.
On May 20, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released its most recent armed conflict survey. The study ranked Mexico third worldwide in terms of the greatest number of people killed due to armed conflict, with 15,000 such deaths registered in 2014. Ranked first and second are Syria (70,000) and Iraq (18,000).
While there has been some debate over whether Mexico’s fight against drug trafficking organizations qualifies as an “armed conflict” under international law, the country is undeniably leaning heavily on its military to go after criminal groups.
According to a new report from Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), there are currently 45,000 soldiers deployed throughout the country, conducting 1,500 security operations every day, reported El Universal.
According to El Universal, the SEDENA report states that soldiers need to stay on the streets fighting insecurity and organized crime “until the institutions responsible for this task are capable of performing their job, which they currently are not.”
Soldiers reportedly come under attack once every day on average, the SEDENA documents reportedly say. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012, there have been 905 attacks against the military, with 58 soldiers killed and 298 injured.
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When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in, he vowed to reduce the military’s role in domestic security, a policy associated with his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.
Instead, given the number of Mexican soldiers still deployed throughout the country, the Peña Nieto administration has clearly continued to rely heavily on the military — most recently sending them into the state of Jalisco.
Peña Nieto originally proposed creating a 40,000-troop gendarmerie to decrease this reliance on the military. However, progress on this front has been slow, with just 5,000 gendarmerie members beginning operations in June 2014.
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Mexico’s use of the military in a domestic security role has consistently led to concerns over human rights abuses by soldiers. Critics point out this is inevitable, as soldiers aren’t trained to police a community, but to fight an enemy and control territory. However, the Mexican military has said that fewer soldiers are being accused of human rights violations. The SEDENA report viewed by El Universal also reportedly stated this, asserting that accusations of human rights abuses involving soldiers dropped 62 percent between 2012 and 2015.
Nonetheless, even with the large numbers of soldiers on Mexico’s streets, the IISS study suggests the country still has a long way to go towards countering violence and improving security for its citizens.