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US Training of Mexican Troops Has Escalated in Step With Mexico’s Murder Rate

Published: February 19, 2013
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Source: Narcosphere, Bill Conroy

Boots-On-The-Ground Instruction Carried Out by US Military in Mexico City, Campeche and Chiapas — Home of the Zapatistas

US training of Mexican military forces spiked in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, coinciding with a sharp rise in drug-war homicides in Mexico, an analysis of records made public under the Foreign Assistance Act show.

The training in those two years, funded by the US Department of Defense, and to a lesser extent by the US Department of State, covered a wide range of military skill sets and involved hundreds of training programs offered in the US to Mexican forces as well as dozens (at least 60) provided inside Mexico.

For example, in Mexico City during that two-year period, the US military provided to Mexican security forces training in, among other tactics, “asymmetrical conflict,” “anti-terrorism,” and “open-source intelligence” gathering. US military training also was provided in other parts of Mexico, including the state of Campeche, where infantry, marksmanship and intelligence programs were offered to Mexican troops; and in Chiapas, in fiscal 2011, infantry training was provided to Mexican Marines over two-week periods in April and September.

The latter training programs might be considered particularly sensitive for Mexican politics, given the Mexican state of Chiapas is home to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials).

The Zapatistas are a rebel indigenous group governing more than 1,000 rural communities that rose up in arms in 1994. However, since peace talks were initiated in 1995, the Zapatistas have not fired a shot and have converted to peaceful and civil resistance.

In the 1990s, under Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, a member of the PRI Party, an unsuccessful, violent counter-insurgency campaign was waged against the Zapatistas that involved the use of both the Mexican military and civilian paramilitary forces — as part of an effort to destroy the indigenous movement and its autonomous communities.

On another sensitive front for Latin American/US relations, Foreign Assistance Act records reveal that US military training also was provided to Mexican soldiers in fiscal 2010 and 2011 by the US Department of Defense’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The Institute was formerly the School of the Americas, which, in past decades, provided training to some of the most notorious violators of human rights in Latin America.

WHINSEC, now reportedly reformed and sensitive to human rights, offered at least 10 different training programs (some multiple times) to Mexican troops in fiscal 2010 and 2011 in subjects such as “counter-narco-terrorism,” “joint operations” and “counterdrug ops,” according to data provided to Congress under the requirements of the Foreign Assistance Act.

US officials interviewed by Narco News contend that any correlation between increased US military training and rising homicide rates in Mexico is nothing more than “anecdotal." They argue further that, based on the US military’s internal “classified” assessments, there is no evidence that Mexican troops trained by the US are subsequently being drafted into organized crime rings or otherwise involved in narco-trafficking corruption. In fact, a DoD official actually argues that the homicide rate in Mexico could likely be reduced if there were a more “persistent” use of military force to counter the “cartel” violence in affected regions in Mexico.

However, the correlation between US training and Mexico’s homicide rate remains striking, and there is public-source evidence pointing to significant corruption within Mexico’s military that arguably could exploit US military training. Also, the trajectory of the drug war to date makes clear that the more Mexican security forces attack criminal organizations, the more violence those groups commit, including against civilians, to protect their markets and turf from both the government and rival organizations.

The hard-nosed military strategy pursued by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón in prosecuting the drug war, as a result, has failed to adequately account for the blowback on the civilian population of Mexico, some critics charge.

Mexico’s new president, PRI Party member Enrique Peña Nieto, is promising a different course in the drug-war conflict, recently announcing plans to direct a considerable amount of funding, $9.2 billion (US dollars) this year, to social programs — though he offers few specifics. Peña Nieto also is promising to put an emphasis on aggressively pursuing street-level crime (extortion, kidnapping, gang violence) as opposed to targeting narco-trafficking “kingpins” — the latter a strategy pursued at great cost by his PAN Party predecessor.

But is Peña Nieto’s drug-war strategy really that much different than Calderón’s, or is his policy rhetoric simply a mask concealing a much-less innovative plan — an approach already being pursued by the Mexican security forces, with US help, for years now?

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