In Mexico, the war of drugs has become more than a metaphor, as military troops have been ordered into the field, engaging in armed conflict with troops from the cartels, a policy which has lead to growing body counts on both sides.
In a short, fierce fight Monday, Mexican marines killed at least 14 cartel soldiers who had ambushed a patrol, and in June 2014, soldiers killed at least 22 people, 12 of them innocent civilians, when they engaged in a killing spree ordered by superiors.
And then there was the involvement of soldiers in the events leading up to the 26 September 2014 abduction of the still missing 23 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa.
The drug war, in short, has tarnished the military’s reputation.
And now, says the country’s top general and defense secretary, it’s time to pull the troops out.
From teleSUR English:
Mexico’s defense secretary has called for all troops fighting the drug cartels across the violence-ravaged country to return to their military headquarters and quit fighting a battle that should be handled by law enforcement.
“We did not ask to be here, we do not feel comfortable here, we did not train to pursue criminals, our role is another and it has been distorted,” said General Salvador Cienfuegos. “We would love the police forces to do their job. . .but they don’t.”
The Mexican army has been fighting a war with drug traffickers since December 2006 when then President Felipe Calderon declared a “war on drugs.” This period accounts for some of the bloodiest years that has left close to 200,000 people dead, at least 28,000 disappeared, and at least 8,000 cases of torture documented since 2007.
This militarized drug war policy has been continued by current President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “To sum it up, there are a large number of deaths that shouldn’t be happening. . .This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets; it takes other measures and there hasn’t been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”
Within the framework of international law, human rights organizations have accused the Mexican government of committing crimes against humanity due to the number of documented cases of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture. These crimes have been committed repeatedly since the Mexican government began its war with drug cartels.
The general is right.
Using the military against a country’s own citizens, even citizens who are criminals, is a really bad idea.
Using the military is like using a hammer to perform brain surgery when a scalpel is called for, and soldiers are trained to annihilate an enemy, not arrest them.