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Mexico: Security Concerns for the 1990's and Beyond
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Public Order and Internal Security > Security Concerns for the 1990's and Beyond


Since the EZLN uprising in Chiapas began in 1994, the Mexican armed forces have assumed a much higher profile. The reluctance of the armed forces and Zapatistas to engage in full-scale hostilities, the relatively low number of casualties in the uprising, and the idiosyncrasies of Mexico's "revolutionary" political culture suggest, however, that the Chiapas conflict will not necessarily replicate the violent pattern of the Central American guerrilla wars of the 1970s and 1980s.

Analysts predict that the Mexican armed forces will continue a prominent role in narcotics interdiction efforts, as the Mexican drug cartels, bolstered by their links to international organized crime, attempt to consolidate their territorial power and undermine state authority. Observers also expect that the Mexican navy will assume a more prominent role in protecting Mexico's EEZ and combatting illegal immigration and smuggling. For the foreseeable future, Mexico will continue to rely on the United States hemispheric defense umbrella for its external security needs.

A concise history of the Mexican armed forces and an overview of the service branches as of the mid-1980s can be found in the section on Mexico by Adrian J. English in Armed Forces of Latin America . Edwin Lieuwen's Mexican Militarism is a full study of the modern military during its formative period. The Modern Mexican Military , edited by David Ronfeldt, includes contributions by several authorities on the national defense system. Georges Fauriol's article, "Mexico: In a Superpower's Shadow," treats what Mexico considers as its security threats and weighs its military capabilities.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser appraises the attitude of Mexican military officers toward civilian society and politics as of 1990 in "Civil-Military Relations in Mexico." Generals in the Palacio by Roderic A. Camp and an article by William S. Ackroyd, "Military Professionalism, Education, and Political Behavior in Mexico," examine the important role of the military training and education system.

Little up-to-date material has been published on the organizational structure and operational capabilities of the Mexican armed forces. René Luria's brief survey in 1992, "Defense Policy and the Armed Forces of Mexico," summarizes some aspects, although more recent developments are not included. Discussion in this chapter of military units, personnel strengths, and weapons systems is based in part on The Military Balance , produced annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

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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