Drug ‘War With No End in Sight’ Puts Spotlight on Mexican Military

By Mark Browne | December 14, 2016 | 8:18pm EST
A masked Mexican soldier stands on guard in front of burning packages of marijuana in Tijuana in 2010. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias, File)

Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Ten years after former Mexican President Felipe Calderon more than doubled the number of troops fighting Mexico’s drug cartels, supply routes to the U.S. “remain open,” and Mexico’s military is bogged down in a “war with no end in sight,” according to a report by a leading international risk consultancy.

Responding to a “massive market” for illegal drugs in the U.S., Mexico’s drug cartels now increasingly send domestically produced heroin and methamphetamine across the border, according to the report issued Tuesday by the Texas-based consultancy Stratfor.

The report predicts that Mexico’s drug war, which analysts agree has resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Mexicans in the past ten years, is now on course to “continue for decades.”

And the Mexican government is not likely to give up its battle with the cartels because shutting off the flow of drugs is a “fundamental part of its relationship” with the U.S. government, the report notes.

On a positive note, the report says that Mexico has seen limited success increasing security in Ciudad Juarez and parts of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

But it found little improvement in the security situation nationwide 10 years after Calderon sent 45,000 troops – double the numbers previously deployed – into the streets to fight the cartels and rising crime.

Mexico’s government first turned to the military to fight the cartels to “replace corrupt local law enforcement officials,” according to the report author and Stratfor analyst Reggie Thompson.

But as the military has been dragged into conflicts with the cartels, allegations of corruption and human rights violations against it have risen, and “this has become a bigger problem,” Thompson told CNSNews.com.

In a report last June, U.S. and Mexican rights advocacy organizations accused both the Mexican military and the Zetas drug cartel of committing crimes against humanity over the past decade.

In 2011, Mexican rights groups called on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Calderon for drug-war related killings by the military and the cartels. ICC prosecutors declined to take up the case.

Some 12,400 human rights complaints have been formerly filed against the Mexican military in the past ten years.

Humberto Guerrero, the human rights coordinator for the Mexican citizens’ justice group FUNDAR said that was proof that the “militarization” of the drug war isn’t working.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Guerrero said, claiming the war with the cartels in Mexico has left approximately 150,000 dead and led to 30,000 disappearances.

“The argument by Calderon was that the military wasn’t corrupt, but it’s a false argument.”

Mexico’s Congress is now considering proposals that would make it easier for the government to use the military for purposes other than its constitutionally-defined responsibility to protect the country from outside threats.

FUNDAR and more than a dozen other citizens groups have spoken out against the proposal, which Guerrero said amount to an end-run around the Constitution.

He also said the current use of the military to fight the cartels doesn’t respect a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that said troops must be subject to civilian law.

Mexico’s Interior Secretary Osorio Chong this week called for a new “legal framework” to allow the military to continue its role in internal security.

“We have expressed the urgency of providing our armed forces with a legal framework to regulate the activities that they are already performing,” Chong said.

John Ackerman, a law professor at the national university UNAM and editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review, said the use of the military for public security is “illegal” and that the military is “highly vulnerable for having committed this gross violation of the Constitution for the past ten years.”

The two proposals currently being considered by the Congress that would make it easier to use troops to fight crime, Ackerman said, would “legalize and make permanent the militarization of internal security.”

“It would militarize law enforcement. Law enforcement is already militarized. It would make it permanent. It would give legal protection to the military.”

Approving either of the proposals would result in the military being “permanently on the streets which is a bad idea,” Ackerman said.

“We are in a de-facto state of emergency now without it being declared formally, which is why [the government] is pushing for this law.”

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