Posted by DD partially republished from NYT Read full story here
In the history of modern war, fighters are much more likely to injure their enemies than kill them. In many forms of combat between armed groups, about four people are injured for each person killed, according to an assessment of wars since the late 1970s by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Sometimes, the number of wounded is even higher.
But the body count in Mexico is reversed. The Mexican Army kills eight enemies for every one it wounds.
For the nation’s elite marine forces, the discrepancy is even more pronounced: The data they provide says they kill roughly 30 combatants for each one they injure.
According to the government’s own figures, Mexico’s armed forces are exceptionally efficient killers — stacking up bodies at extraordinary rates.
The Mexican authorities say the nation’s soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the cartels they battle.
But experts who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of, arguing that the numbers reveal something more ominous.
“They are summary executions,” said Paul Chevigny, a retired New York University professor who pioneered the study of lethality among armed forces.
Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the defense secretary, has publicly defended the military, saying it is the only institution confronting organized crime — and winning.
We are in the streets because society is demanding us to be there,” General Cienfuegos told the Mexican newspaper Milenio this month.
About 3,000 people were killed by the military between 2007 and 2012, while 158 soldiers died. Some critics call the killings a form of pragmatism: In Mexico, where fewer than 2 percent of murder cases are successfully prosecuted, the armed forces kill their enemies because they cannot rely on the shaky legal system to do it's job.
In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned Mexico’s human rights record, including extrajudicial executions, building on an earlier United Nations report that described torture as widespread.
The statistics, which the government stopped reporting in early 2014, offer a rare, unguarded glimpse into the role the Mexican military has assumed in the war against organized crime. In the last decade, as the nation’s soldiers and marines have been forced onto the front lines, human rights abuses surged.
And yet the military remains largely untouched, protected by a government loath to crack down on the only force able to take on the fight. Little has been done to investigate the thousands of accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that have mounted since former President Felipe Calderón began his nation’s drug war a decade ago.
Even in the case of 43 college students who disappeared in 2014, the role of the military, and the protection it enjoys, have become polarizing issues.
Soldiers were present the night of the disappearances in Guerrero State, according to international experts asked to help determine the students’ fate. But the military did not grant interviews to the experts, and the government did not require it.
The unique relationship between the military and the government dates back more than 70 years, to the period after the country emerged from civil war. To maintain stability, historians say, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party reached a pact with the armed forces: In exchange for near total autonomy, the military would not interfere in politics.
It seems that both sides of that pact have kept their word. Unlike many Latin American countries, Mexico has never suffered a military coup and the government has protected the military from close scrutiny.