Dec 18, 2014

Soldiers killed in the war on drugs

News Week Español (Translated by Americas Program):  Since former President Felipe Calderon launched the war against drug cartels, 209 soldiers have died in armed clashes, and 1,760--from privates to corporals, second and first sergeants, lieutenants and colonels-- have been wounded in shootings. In some cases, they have been discharged from the the Mexican Army due to the severity of injuries.

From January 11, 2007-just 41 days after Calderon of the PAN  took control of the country from Vicente Fox--to October 2, 2014, there have been 3,520 clashes with members of criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking , extortion, kidnapping and exploitation for sexual and labor purposes.

In just the first 10 months of this year, according to information from the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), 234 battles left   15 military elements dead. The latest was a death in San Martín Hidalgo, Jalisco, on September 24, when a convoy of armed men opened fire and in the exchange of fire also killed four of the attackers. Another occurred in Mier, Tamaulipas, where there is dispute over control of the plaza (trafficking route) between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, Sept. 17. Two incidents took place in Tepehuanes, Durango, when an ambush and subsequent confrontation occurred between military and probable drug traffickers in the Guanaceví neighborhood.

In this same period 240 army personnel were wounded. Of these, the Sedena reports 22 during the Tlatlaya case in the State of Mexico, on June 30.

At first the federal agency reported that armed civilians fired at the military when the latter located a warehouse and that the army "repelled the aggression" killing 22 civilians. Last November 7 a court issued a formal arrest order against seven members of the military involved in the shooting, because, allegedly, three of them fired at a group of alleged criminals who had already surrendered.

The charges are "qualified murder", abuse of authority, illegal alteration of the crime scene, and improper exercise of public service.

Also one was charged with "cover-up based on the premise of not attempting to prevent the consummation of a crime."

These seven military defendants are held in Military Camp 1-A, in the city of Mexico.

In total, from January 1 to October 2, 2014, 220 people were delivered to the ministerial authority for assault with firearms against the Armed Forces and offenses related to organized crime.

Since the arrival of Enrique Peña Nieto, who has continued the military fight against drug trafficking cartels, from December 1, 2012 to date 39 military members have been killed in shootings  and 759 more have been wounded (61 this December, 458 in 2013 and 240 so far this year), Sedena reports.

Even the day of the presidential inauguration, while Felipe Calderón handed the presidential sash to Peña Nieto, the alternation of power began with a clash in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, injuring four soldiers.

Under Calderon, about 3000 clashes

When the PAN ex-president left office he left a the figure of 2774 skirmishes registered between the army and the drug cartels. Some, like Los Zetas, are composed of former military elite, deserters from the Mexican Armed Forces. Among them was Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the Lazca, who was allegedly killed in Progreso, Coahuila, in the last months of the Calderón administration. That was the biggest victory over the six years of fighting organized crime.

In that period, Sedena reports obtained by Infomex, show 170 army personnel killed and 1001 wounded. The year with most clashes was 2011, with 1009--more than two per day.

The states where more clashes were reported Tamaulipas, area of ​​Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel; Michoacan, of the Family and The Knights Templar; Baja California, with disputes between the Pacific Cartel and the Arellano Felix; and Durango and Sinaloa, the latter domain of the criminal organization of the same name now probably led by Damaso Lopez, Mini Lic following the rearrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, El Chapo.

Both under Calderon and Enrique Peña 3,321 persons suspected of homicide and injuries against the military have been delivered to the public ministry

The deaths only include those due to assault with a firearm in clashes. Some 92 (to early 2014) have died in car accidents, and 45 in air mishaps.

The families of fallen and wounded soldiers can access the Military Life Insurance, which between 2008-2012 has allocated 2,258,197,914 pesos, according to a document from the Social Security Institute for the Mexican Armed Forces (ISSFAM) published in the Journal Officer of the Federation (DOF).

Added to this, Sedena reports the desertion of 43,827 soldiers of different ranks, 20% of the total troops active in the Army during the presidency of Felipe Calderón.

Cartel rearrangement

The war waged by the Mexican government to combat organizations that control various illegal activities, especially drug trafficking, has left more than 60,000 deaths the past six years ( civilians, traffickers and soldiers) based on the figures of the current administration. The number of cartels and criminal cells that control the distribution of drugs throughout the country--and  operated in the United States, South America and other regions, because according to international research linkages exist between Mexican narcos and Italian, Japanese, Peruvian and Hindu mafias-- to distribute tens of tons of drugs in Latin America, Europe and Asia, has not diminished.

When this security strategy began in Mexico there were only four major drug cartels: Sinaloa, Juarez, Gulf and La Familia Michoacana. Currently the Attorney General's Office (PGR) identifies nine organizations controlling 49 gangs and that have a presence in 23 entities. The Pacific, Arellano Felix (weakened by the fall of the members of this family and abatement leaders), La Familia Michoacana, Carrillo Fuentes, Beltrán Leyva, Los Zetas, The Knights Templar and  Jalisco New Generation cartels have joined those already existing. Some are splinter groups that formed after bloody battles, marked by enmity, for control of territory. Others resulted from rearrangements within these criminal groups.

However, although the military has received salary increases of over 100 percent to continue in the fight against drug trafficking, the Armed Forces pay scale currently shows a maximum salary of 124,000 pesos and minimum of 8,820, according to the rankings, cartel activity did not abate and the war continues.

The Mexican government notes that druglords killed in operations of the national security forces are Arturo Beltran Leyva, Nazario Moreno, Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén and Heriberto Lazcano, but it does not know the number of persons with no connection to criminal activities who have died in   clashes, referred to as "collateral victims" of the drug war.

Translation: Americas Program
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