By KELIN DILLON
According to new information from the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), Mexico’s Armed Forces – composed of the independently operating Mexican Navy and Mexican Army – has had a continued rise in both alleged human rights violations and civilian deaths across the past four years of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) presidency.
Currently, 318 members of the Armed Forces are under investigation for purported human rights abuses, with a total of 116 troop elements, 23 officers and 15 senior officers facing accusations so far – all of which were reported to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).
The Sedena information revealed that only 19 of the these accused troop elements, one officer and three senior officers, have been found guilty and sentenced, while one cadet, five officers and two senior officers have been acquitted. Another 14 troop elements and two officers are presently on the run.
The inaugural year of the AMLO administration represented a sharp spike in alleged human rights violations, rising 21 percent from 347 reports to the CNDH in 2018 to 421 in 2019. The onset of the covid-19 pandemic caused the CNDH reports to drop dramatically, though they’ve been steadily on the rise in the years since; there were 388 reported human rights violations purportedly perpetrated by the Armed Forces in 2022 alone.
Meanwhile, the civilian casualty toll by the Armed Forces has also continued to ramp up across López Obrador’s term, with a total of 999 civilian deaths tallied over the course of the past four years. In comparison, AMLO’s predecessors – former Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa – experienced a total of 1,201 and 1,141 civilian deaths across the course of their respective presidencies, detailed the Sedena’s Fatality Index of the Armed Forces and the National Guard (GN).
For security consultant David Saucedo, the rise in civilian deaths can be directly attributed to the replacement of López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” security strategy against Mexico’s cartels with a more direct approach to the violence.
However, Saucedo went on to point out there have been proven incidents “where the Army clearly exceeded its use of force,” as in the case of five youths who were purportedly shot to death by the Mexican Army in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, over the weekend.
“It is impossible for these numbers to decrease if we are having more Armed Forces elements on the streets of the country to which we are entrusting police functions,” added Armed Forces consultant Alexei Chávez. “The more we depend on the Armed Forces, the more cases like Nuevo Laredo will occur.”