The Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) has registered only 43 fatalities unrelated to clashes since January 1, 2007, shortly after former President Felipe Calderón declared the so-called “war on drug trafficking”, until today.
According to their figures, included in a list to which Animal Político had access through a request for transparency, in this period there were 5,207 clashes with the Army in which 5,186 civilians who were confronting the military died, for 300 uniformed personnel who lost their lives.
Read: Lethality grows with AMLO: Army kills more than 500 civilians in clashes and injures 89
In addition, another 206 people unrelated to any violent act were injured, by 1,776 soldiers and 771 civilians whom the Army accuses of participating in the clashes. This means that Sedena has recorded one daily confrontation with armed civilians since 2007.
In these almost 15 years of military deployment and increased violence unleashed after Calderón’s declaration of “war”, Inegi has registered more than 352,000 homicides and the National Search Commission (CNB) is approaching 100,000 disappeared.
The list indicates that 14 “collateral victims”, as they are called in military circles since the Vietnam War, died during the presidency of Felipe Calderón; another 20 with Enrique Peña Nieto in government, and 9 during the current six-year term of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to which there is still half.
Among the 43 people who, according to the Army, were completely oblivious to the facts when they died by bullets from the uniformed, there are cases in which relatives of the victims reported that they were executed without prior attack. For example, the list indicates that on March 10 a person died in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, by shots fired by the Army. This is Jacob Rodríguez, a 21-year-old who was shot dead while driving with his wife, whom he took to the hospital for an ultrasound. Ten months after those events, there is not a single uniformed person linked to the process.
Other events that occurred in past administrations are also included, such as the death of four people, one of them a baby, hit by a military vehicle that allegedly chased a group of narcos in Reynosa in 2015. Also a woman who died by a stray bullet during the clashes registered in Yurécuaro, Michoacán, in October 2011, in which 5 alleged members of organized crime also died.
Tamaulipas is the state most punished by the collateral damage caused by the Army. In fact, 28 events, with as many fatalities, were registered in municipalities such as Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros or Reynosa. The rest took place in Guerrero, Michoacán and Veracruz. It is striking that states with a strong presence of organized crime, such as Jalisco or Sonora, do not even appear in the records. Or that others barely have counted an event in 15 years of violence. By contrast, Tamaulipas, a state with heavily entrenched groups such as the Gulf Cartel or the Northeast Cartel (a split from the Zetas), accounts for virtually all of the Army’s violence against civilians.
What the report doesn’t account for
The problem is that the military does not include in its list cases that were considered extrajudicial executions by human rights organizations or even by institutions such as the CNDH.
One of the most significant is the Tlatlaya massacre, in which 22 civilians were killed in June 2014.
The Army’s count counts those events as a confrontation and the victims as “aggressors,” despite the fact that the CNDH certified that at least 12 were executed when they had already surrendered.
Nor does it include recent events, such as the murder of Damián Tercero and two other civilians who were kidnapped by an organized crime group in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on July 3, 2019. That day there was a confrontation and one of the commanders ordered the murder of those who were still alive. The victim’s family reached an agreement with the military authorities by which 29 officers were to be tried by civil means, without so far having been informed about the progress of the process. Sedena, however, ignored these circumstances and considered as “aggressors” the 13 people who lost their lives during that incident in Nuevo Laredo.
Find out: “I want the military to pay”: family of young man killed in Nuevo Laredo demands justice
Other events that are not even recorded are the murder of Javier Flores del Ángel, 26, shot dead in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on February 27, 2021. The Attorney General’s Office (FGR) accuses two soldiers but the first hearing, which was set for December 20, could not be held since one deserted and the other is not reachable, according to Sedena herself.
These figures come to complete the data revealed by Animal Político that the lethality rates of the Army during the current administration exceed those registered in previous six-year terms. According to data offered by Sedena until August, since López Obrador came to government there is a balance of 515 allegedly armed civilians killed and 89 injured (not counting the 9 collateral victims) against 21 military dead and 179 wounded. In addition, 381 alleged assailants were arrested. This implies that the number of civilians killed exceeds by more than 26% that of detainees during this administration, a figure much higher than peña Nieto’s 10.9% or the 18.2% that was registered with Calderón.
Despite these figures, López Obrador has always defended the actions of the Army, assuring on several occasions that since he is in power the uniformed no longer cause massacres or have the order to kill. What the database shows is that, when it happens, the Army chooses not to include it in its lists and to pass off cases of extrajudicial execution as if they were clashes.
What we do at Animal Político requires professional journalists, teamwork, dialogue with readers and something very important: independence. You can help us keep going. Be part of the team.
Subscribe to Animal Político, receive benefits and support free journalism.#YoSoyAnimal