Militarization: Voices from Memory

Lopez Obrador with the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy.

By Victor M.Quintana S.

These days there are some opinions as critical as sudden about militarization, microwaved in the heat of partisan clashes. But there are also others, also critical, which have been exposed and documented for years. It is very important to differentiate and address them.

In 2009 we began to report, in these pages, the pernicious effects of the Joint Operation Chihuahua, carried out by the Army within the framework of Calderon’s “war on drugs.”

On March 28, 2008, General Jorge Juarez Loera, head of this operation, began it with his memorable phrase: “My search warrant is the hammer.” More than 2,000 soldiers were sent to Chihuahua and, when the operation was reinforced a year later, 5,332 elements were added. The Army took command of the municipal police and of the Juarez Social Rehabilitation Center (

The presence of the Army in the streets had these results for this border: before its implementation, in 2007, there were 316 intentional homicides; in 2008 the number of homicides rose to 1,607; in 2009 the total rose to 2,643; in 2011, the year in which Calderón started the program Todos somos Juárez (We are all Juárez), it reached 3,117 intentional homicides.

Before the operation, the entire state of Chihuahua had a homicide rate of 14.4 per 100,000 inhabitants; two years after the operation, the rate rose to 148.91 per 100,000 inhabitants. The total number of crimes committed in the state of Chihuahua in 2007 was 34,800; by 2010, the figure rose to 66,125 — 90 percent more. In Juarez, femicides, which in 2007 reached 30, rose to 96 in 2008 and 163 in 2009. That year Ciudad Juarez topped the list of the most violent cities in the world, with 188.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Vehicle theft increased more than 300 percent in three years. We denounced all of this in these respected pages (, and

So, the first conclusion of the Army’s presence in the streets of Chihuahua and the border all these years is that, far from reducing violence and crime rates, it has notoriously increased them. We pointed this out very clearly when Calderon went to Harvard to show off his Todos Somos Juarez plan (

The military presence in Chihuahua during those years of Calderon’s war had other very painful costs: human rights violations by the armed forces; arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, etc. all increased, as documented by Human Rights Watch. By September 2011, 1,92 complaints had already been filed in Ciudad Juarez alone against members of the Chihuahua Joint Operation.

There is a very emblematic case: on December 29, 2009, cousins Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, Rocio Irene Alvarado Reyes and Jose Angel Alvarado Herrera were detained and disappeared by the Army in the Benito Juarez ejido, Chihuahua. The case was taken all the way to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which on November 28, 2018 declared the Mexican State responsible for the triple disappearance in the context of the Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, for militarization and serious human rights violations. It cites data from the CNDH that documented 10,930 complaints against the Secretary of Defense between 2007 and 2017, Aída Hernández Castillo asserted (

The second conclusion from this terrible experience is that, in addition to increasing violence and criminality, the presence of the army in public security brings with it serious human rights violations. Not to mention the atrocities committed by the military in Operation Condor and the dirty war of the 60s and 70s.

Moving to the present, we have also exposed in these pages the atmosphere of violence in large areas of Chihuahua with the presence of the National Guard and the Army: territorial control by organized crime; more than 1,700 displaced people, mostly indigenous, from 2012 to 2017; murders of indigenous leaders in Guadalupe y Calvo and Bocoyna and the two Jesuit priests and a tourist guide in Cerocahui last June; thousands of hectares of forest illegally logged, extortion, the siege of communities, etcetera. The same as is happening in the Sierra de Guerrero, or in the Zapatista communities in Chiapas or in the Nahua zone of Michoacán.

Our third conclusion is that the current National Guard strategy has not been effective in containing the violence that most severely affects the indigenous areas of the country.

These are the reasons why we do not believe in militarization as a solution to the insecurity we are experiencing; and we are concerned about giving more powers to the armed forces and doubling the budget under their control. The Army has changed its skin, as shown by the generals’ garish uniforms, but we do not understand what is the fundamental change in their attitudes that would inspire trust. We are not Alitos1, we do have a memory.

This article was published in La Jornada on September 22nd, 2022.
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. Referring to Alejandro Moreno Cardenas, president of the PRI party since 2019,  former governor of Campeche, Senator and Deputy. The specific reference is not known to us, but the list of controversies and corruption surrounding “Alito” indicate his political career has, well, not entirely been about public service. Surprise, surprise.
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