Last month Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional– SEDENA) published a list of 543 names of army and air force personnel killed on duty since 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderon launched the ‘War on Drugs’ in Mexico.
Another 54 cases of marines who died during anti-narcotics operations between 2006 and 2012 were reported by El Economista during Calderon’s administration, while Defensa reported 152 other deaths during the Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration from 2012- 2018.
Low-ranking officers amounted to the vast majority of fatalities, making up 70 percent of the figures analyzed by Vice. The most military deaths, 131 people, took place in Tamaulipas along on the U.S.-Mexico border. The area is notorious for clashes between armed forces and crime organizations, particularly the Zetas.
Sinaloa, the home-base of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking cartels in the country, Michoacan, and Guerrero, which is home to Mexico’s poppy fields, also had high murder rates.
Though alarmingly Tijuana, where many Central American migrants have been awaiting entry into the United States, had the highest death rates in Baja California in that time frame. Recent reports have revealed incidents of kidnapping and murders of migrants making their way through the region.
SEDENA’s list shows 2010 was the most violent year for military personnel since 2006 with 89 deaths. Though 2018 saw the fewest military casualties with 11 registered, a record 22,365 homicide cases were reported by watchdog agency Semaforo Delictivo, a non-profit which documents killings connected to organized crime.
Mexico’s current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), inherited this crisis when he was inaugurated in December 2018. He has begun forming the country’s first national guard-- one of his campaign promises. Critics are skeptical of this approach and it’s effectiveness because it will involve former military and police personnel, whose implementation of Calderon’s tactic of fighting fire with fire proved to be anything but successful.
However, the national guard would answer to the Civilian Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection. The United Nations Human Rights Council has also agreed to assist in training National Guard troops.