We're always looking for ways to make better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Mexico: Professionalization of the Armed Forces, 1920-46
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > History and Traditions of the Armed Forces > Professionalization of the Armed Forces, 1920-46


The first serious efforts at depoliticizing and professionalizing the military began in 1920 under the government of Obregón, himself a general who had been elected president with the support of the old revolutionary chiefs. Obregón saw the need to consolidate his political position by diminishing the power and influence of the regional caudillos. Military uprisings in 1923, 1927, and 1929 resulted in purges of large numbers of rebellious generals. The army was reduced by two-thirds, to 14,000 officers and 70,000 troops in 1921. The demobilization principally dismantled the excessive number of cavalry regiments. Pay and living conditions of the enlisted ranks were improved, and the military's share of the national budget was slashed from 61 percent in 1921 to 25 percent by 1926. Many officers and men were weeded out by new laws on competitive promotion and mandatory retirement ages. Nevertheless, unqualified revolutionary-era generals continued to be carried on the rolls. The Organic Law of 1926 provided the legal base for the army, defined its missions, and established regulations and formal procedures.

General Plutarco Elías Calles (president, 1924-28) continued Obregón's efforts to reduce the political influence of the military and ensure the army's loyalty to the central government. Calles's policies were carried out by General Joaquín Amaro, the secretary of war and navy. Amaro promoted education of officers and enlisted men in the belief that it would increase loyalty and obedience to civilian authorities. Officers were sent for professional training in the United States and Western Europe. The curriculum of the Heroic Military College, founded in 1823, was reformed, and the Superior War College, a command and general staff college for promising officers, was created. Schools providing specialized training in the various service branches also were established.

General Lázaro Cárdenas, who assumed the presidency in 1934, divided the Secretariat of War and the Navy into two autonomous defense ministries, the Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional), which controlled the army and air force, and the Secretariat of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina Armada). As the possibility of Mexican involvement in World War II increased, Cárdenas drafted the Law of National Military Service, which established, through a lottery system, compulsory basic military training for eighteen-year-old males.

Data as of June 1996

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Mexico Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 181 of 213


Click any image to enlarge.

National Flag

($) Mexican Peso (MXN)
Convert to Any Currency


Locator Map