The Army’s Complicity and the Dangers of Militarization


By: R. Aída Hernández Castillo*

In recent weeks, collectives of relatives of the disappeared from all over the country have been discussing the report presented last March 28 by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for the Ayotzinapa case ( with indignation and despair. This report documents in detail what the families have been saying and shouting in the streets: It was the State!

The 234-page report, prepared by Ángela Buitrago, Claudia Paz y Paz, Francisco Cox and Carlos Beristain, documents with images the direct participation of members of the Secretariat of the Navy in the staging that took place at the Cocula garbage dump, to substantiate the so-called historical truth regarding the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. It includes evidence of the participation of the Army in the events of September 26, 2014, presenting 46 internal reports of the Sedena [1] that account for the real-time communication that was had with the troops who were in Iguala. It also proves the infiltration of the rural teachers college by the military and the illegal espionage work that was being done. The most worrying thing is that it is mentioned that 20 of these reports give clues, which if they had been available in time, would have contributed to finding the missing youths. All this information was hidden by the military for eight years.

While supporters of the current government read this report as a sign of the present administration’s “political will” to clarify the case, the question that arises is why, during three years of this administration, these reports were not produced? If since December 3, 2018, with the creation of the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice for the Ayotzinapa Case, a presidential order was given to the armed forces to cooperate with the investigation, why is access to this information being produced only now?

What most worries the families is the continuity that exists between military commanders involved in the Ayotzinapa case and those who have militarized the territories where their children disappeared. Former Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested in the United States for his links to drug trafficking, only to be extradited and released by the López Obrador government, bears direct responsibility for the complicity and diversion of information documented in the GIEI report. However, not only is he still free, but last March 21 he attended the inauguration of the new Felipe Ángeles airport, built and administered by the armed forces.

The government that promised us a Fourth Transformation has militarized the country more than any previous administration. Amnesty International’s 2021 report documents that there are more military personnel performing public security tasks in this administration than in the three previous administrations. The academic community has watched helplessly as the changes to the Science and Technology Law approved by the Chamber of Deputies last year include the participation of the Ministry of the Navy and of National Defense in the General Council for Scientific Research, Technological Development and Innovation. The military is now in scientific spaces, in customs, in the construction of major mega-projects and branches of the Welfare Bank; in the name of protecting national interests, they are given a power that will be difficult to take away in the future.

Those of us who have investigated the impact of militarization on the communities or who have carried out anthropological reports on the subject, have been warning since the creation of the National Guard, of the dangers of putting the Army, one of the main violators of human rights in the country, in charge of tasks that do not correspond to it (

The GIEI report reminds us that the complicity of the Army is not a fact of the past, but is part of the criminal structure that has turned Mexico into a large clandestine grave. Santiago Aguirre, director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, pointed out: The Ayotzinapa case speaks to us not only of the past, but of the present of the armed forces, who today are enormously empowered, and who continue with their same patterns of opacity, lack of accountability to civilian controls, and non-recognition of their past human rights violations, and of their present where those violations continue to occur. It is important to articulate efforts to denounce and stop the militarization of our society, the present and the future of our country is at stake.

* R. Aída Hernández Castillo is a Doctor in Anthropology and Researcher at CIESAS

[1] Sedena is the acronym for Secretaría de la Defense Nacional, Mexico’s National Defense Ministry.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, April 8, 2022, Translation by Schools for Chiapas and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

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