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Mexico: Public Order and Internal Security
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Public Order and Internal Security


Criminal activity, much of it engendered by narcotics trafficking and production, has, since the 1970s, constituted the most serious problem facing military and police agencies concerned with internal security. Mexico's leaders are increasingly conscious of the threat that drug cartels, with enormous funds and weapons at their disposal, pose to the nation's political and social stability. The illicit movement of drugs generates huge amounts of money that can be employed to corrupt public officials at both the state and federal levels. Traffickers also can assemble large weapons arsenals, which contribute to the atmosphere of lawlessness in society.

Until the uprising in Chiapas in 1994, revolutionary activity amounting to insurrection against the state had not been a major source of concern for several decades. Groups that sprang up to exploit the plight of the downtrodden and the disparities between the rich and poor have failed to coalesce into a single movement powerful enough to threaten the stability of the central government. The fragmentation of the forces of protest has been ascribed to several factors, including the territorial expanse and geographic diversity of the country, the preoccupation with local injustices suffered at the hands of those holding economic power, and the government's determination to deal harshly with any threat to public order.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, several guerrilla organizations operated in the countryside. The three principal groups were the National Revolutionary Civic Association, the Mexican Proletarian Party, and the Party of the Poor. Each was directed by a charismatic leader, who eventually was tracked down and killed in confrontations with the military or police. None of the groups was able to carry on organized operations after its leader's death.

The police claimed in 1981 that they had destroyed the last cell of the Twenty-Third of September Communist League, the largest and longest-lived of Mexico's urban guerrilla groups. The league reportedly had incorporated members from several other urban guerrilla fronts. Many terrorist acts were committed in the name of the league before its eradication, including the kidnapping of two United States consular officers in 1973 and 1974 (one officer was freed after a ransom was paid, and the other was murdered).

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

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