By Julio A. Montes
The idea of using military units for internal security and law enforcement operations is not a new one. It is natural to assume that military forces are multi-purpose agencies that can easily adapt from combat, to peace keeping, to law enforcement, and to other tasks. As flawed as this idea may be, it is true that specialized military units could be adapted to certain civilian tasks; it is also true that the military is trained to respond and manage emergencies. This is particularly certain in times of crisis in order to provide a quick response in support of civilian authorities. The Mexican officials have struggled for years to establish a reliable police agency or unit able to combat the drug traffic. Under the leadership of President Vicente Fox, a new 117 element unit (Special Organized Crime Unit) has been established by the end of 2001. This unit is under the command of Jose Santiago Vasconcelos. The unit appears to have the blessings and confidence of the DEA, and has performed well-so far.
Nevertheless, the Mexican government still depends heavily on military assistance. The Army’s main tasks with internal security and assistance to the civilian authority are in case of crises. The Mexican Army has determined that a soldier has the basic discipline required to build a better police officer. The Mexican Army High Command considered it was appropriate to develop the Cuerpo de Policia Militar (Military Police Corps) as a specialized unit of the Armed Forces. Therefore, the Corps is now listed as one of the elite outfits of the Mexican Armed Forces.
In June 1998, the Mexican Army established the Military Police Corps. This new body was going to be used to spearhead the fight against drug trafficking, and tasked with special operations in support of local authorities in internal security tasks. The legal bases for this elite outfit are established under Title 1, Article 1, General Missions, II & III paragraphs of the Army and Air Force Organic Law. This article assigns the Army and Air Force with internal security and assistance to the general population tasks and duties. The Corps comprises the 1st, 2nd and 3rd MP Brigades, and a Special Forces Airborne Group (Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales).
The Corps is tasked with establishing doctrine and exerts technical, training and operational control of all three MP brigades, the Military Police Service School, the 1st and 2nd MP Battalions of the Presidential Guard, and the many MP platoons assigned to Regional (12) and Zone (44) headquarters. This jurisdiction also extends to the MP platoons assigned to the Central and South Task Forces, and sections attached to other dependencies, bases, and those MP units in charge of security of the Mexican Air Force installations.
Weapons of the Military Police Battalion
Each Mexican Military Police Battalion comprises a Command Secretariat (Administrative Group), a HQ Group, a HHC Company, and five Military Police Companies.
The uniform is the General Purpose Army Modelo-1990. This is a copy of the US BDU made of a 50/50 % cotton/polyester drill in olive green color. In fact, the uniform is a modular one. For urban and high visibility duties, the uniform is worn with colorful and florescence insignia and cords & lazes. For field and combat duties, the helmet receives a cloth cover, and all colorful insignias are removed. The US M85 kevlar helmet is standard along with modified ALICE equipment. A new ALICE system of local manufacturing is also being introduced, and body armor is in the process of being general issue.
Until recently, MP Special Forces operators wore an US-BDU copy in “Duck Hunter” camouflaged pattern, matched to a light-green beret. This dress has been exchanged for the now standard US BDU in “Woodland” camouflage pattern, and USFF style Green Beret.
The Mexican Military Factories General Direction is in charge of the production of small arms and ammunition for both the Armed Forces and Security Forces. The Military Factory General Direction has 17 plants, one lab, and one training establishment. Within the first 6 months of 2001, these facilities produced 11,599 weapons, 34.227 million rounds of ammunition, and 335,454 grenades. By comparison, during all of year 2000, the installations produced 11,833 weapons, 28.567 million rounds of ammunitions, and 461,818 grenades. In 1999, Mexico produced 9,356 weapons. Within the last 6 months, the factories have repaired 16,000 weapons. The same number were repaired last year. The factories produce HK P7-M13S pistols, HK MP5 SMGs, HK G3s, and HK-21 MGs. It is also reported that Mexico produces 60mm and 101.6mm mortars. The ammunition produced includes 9mm, 45 acp, 38 Special, 5.56x45mm, 7.62x51mm, 12.7x99mm, and 20x102mm as well as 60mm and 101.6mm mortar grenades.
It is not surprising that the Military Police Corps is basically equipped with weapons produced locally. Most officers carry the HKP7- M13 produced in Mexico, and some operatives carry the excellent HK-P7 SPS in 9mm imported from Germany.
Mexican factories have been producing HK products since 1981. Therefore, most MP troops are equipped with the locally made G-3 rifle with retractile stock. For support, the MPs count on HK-21 machine guns. Officers prefer the MP-5 SMG, and more recently, the M4 Carbine and M9 pistol. The short M16 (M4 Carbine) has been popular in the hands of the local police.
It was not until 1998, with the first units attending Special Forces training in the U.S., that the M4 gained popularity among Army officers. The Mexican Army has relied on the HK system for its troops, so it would have been logical to adopt the HK-33 and the HK-53 models for use in the 5.56mm category. This would have simplified training and with a very reliable set of weapons. The Mexicans are familiar with the HK-33 and HK-53 models since they are common in the hands of the Federal Police. Nevertheless, more and more Army officers are now equipped with the MP5 SMG in 9mm and M4 Carbine in 5.56mm.
Armor in Internal Security
Some MP units have been equipped with the DNC-2 (Mexican BDX APC) armored transport. It is known that Mexico acquired almost the entire Belgian production of the BDX APC. The Timoney APC was designed in Ireland, and was built under license as the BDX by Beherman Demoen Engineering in Belgium. The 1977 Belgian order called for 43 vehicles for the Belgian Air Force, and 80 vehicles for the Belgian Gendarmerie. The Gendarmerie models included 18 examples with 81mm mortars. Those BDXs observed in Mexican service are equipped with a single machine gun ring, or a one-man turret; there is also the 81mm self-propelled mortar model. Those BDXs in the hands of the police are the Gendarmerie transport variant. The BDX is made of all-welded steel, and its armor thickness varies from 9.5 to 12.7mm. It can be equipped with a dozer blade to be used to remove obstacles.
The BDX is ideal for internal security operations, and has space for 12 men. It has been reported that these vehicles were overhauled in Belgium before delivery. Although the BDX can be equipped with the GM Detroit Diesel 4V-53T engine (180hp at 2800 rpm), those in Mexican service retain the Chrysler V-8, water-cooled, petrol engine (180 bhp/4000 rpm).
The Mexicans have not had second thoughts in using armored vehicles to quell civil disturbances. In 1957, units of the 12th Motorized Cavalry Regiment from Puebla, were dispatched to San Luis Potosi. The tanks were used to fire upon civilians and to bring order for the restoration of the official candidate for governor. The PRI representative had lost to the opposition candidate (Dr. Navas).
For many years, the Mexican armored units depended on obsolete M3 light tanks. These units had been acquired in the early 1940s to replace the elderly and inadequate CTVL and CTMS-1TBA Marnom-Herrington light tanks then in use. In 1972, the Stuarts were used again to quell civil disturbances at Puebla de los Angeles. On August 28, 1968, the twelve MAC-1s (denominated Car Mex-1 in Mexico) of the 1st Armored Reconnaissance Squadron of the Presidential Guard were unleashed from the National Palace against university students protesting in the Main National Plaza (El Zocalo).
The Military Police were later equipped with the MOWAG Roland APCs for internal security. The Rolands carried only a MAG-58 light machine gun. More recently, the Rolands have been transferred to regular Army units, and replaced with VERE units. Between 1989 and 1994, the Army Vehicle Repair Workshop assembled 3.347 GM Hummers. The Mexican Hummer VEREs (or Vehiculo de Reconocimiento y Enlace – Reconnaissance & liaison vehicle), have been equipped with either an HK-21 or a MK-19 MGL.
The National Defense Secretariat (Secretaria de Defensa y Nacional – Sedena) has established the Airborne Reaction Force for Disasters (Fuerza de Reaccion Aeromovil para Casos de Desastre – F.R.A.C.D.). These task forces comprise an air group and a land group. The air unit counts on one heavy lift team with a Mi-26 helicopter, and three immediate support teams, each equipped with one MD-530F and two MI-8 or MI-17 helicopters.
The FRACD counts on Military Police sections, which are deployed to disaster areas in support of local authorities and law enforcement agencies. FRACD teams have also been deployed to Central America in support of local authorities during the various disasters in Honduras and Nicaragua (Hurricane Mitch, 1998) and El Salvador (earthquake, Jan & Feb 2001).
During Hurricane Mitch (3 to 21 November 1998), the Mexican Army deployed 812 soldiers to Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Included during these operations in Central America was a 12 rescue dog unit. The Mexican armed forces dispatched 2 Boeing 727, 4 C-130, at least 2 AN-32 (Armada) and a small flotilla of helicopters (eight MI-8/MI-17, four MD-530F, and four UH-60). These assets delivered 17,097,750 tons of assistance.
A Mexican plane was the first to land with international aid in El Salvador during the crisis in November 1998, and a Mexican plane was the first one again to land in El Salvador with international aid during the 2001 earthquakes (January 13, and February 13).
The use of military forces for civilian tasks in general, and law enforcement in particular, is a common occurrence outside the United States. The Mexican Army has developed its Military Corps with the task and capacity of reinforcing the Federal and State police when the need arises. By Latin American standards, the Mexican Military Police Corps appears to be well trained and equipped for the mission entrusted to it.
A soldier is trained in the handling of firearms, and discipline of fire. It is an error, however, to think that this is sufficient to transform a recruit into an effective police officer. It is also an error to believe that a police officer does not need the training in the handling of firearms and discipline of fire. It is actually imperative for the police officer to master these basic requirements since he/she must make use of firearms under strict legal guidelines-at least in theory. In essence, a former soldier COULD be a good starting point to build a good police officer.
There are considerable and important differences between a soldier and a law enforcement agent. The most classic difference between one and the other is that a police officer is limited to the “reasonable” use of force when apprehending someone. The soldier does not have that limitation when performing his normal military duties in wartime. Of course, a soldier’s behavior is restricted and subject to civilian authority during peacetime.
It is required that a Military Policeman be educated and restricted by Codes and Regulations. The Mexican Army tries to weld the differences between soldiers and policeman with an intense training program. The MP Company of the Superior War School was established on April 16, 1992, followed with the foundation of the MP Service School on December 16, 1998. After passing a battery of entrance exams, the MP candidates attend 1st Level training (10 weeks) at the 1st Military Regional HQ, at Temamatla. Upon successful completion of this 1st Level, the candidates go to the 2nd Level Training, MP Basic Course, for 5 weeks.
The Military Police Service School also provides the Basic MP Course for officers and NCOs (2 weeks), the Deactivation of Explosives Basic Course, the Second Sergeants Development Course (3 months), Canine Handlers Course (2 months), the Canine Trainers Course (6 months) and the Instructors Course. Additional training is accomplished through refresher and specialized training of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Levels.
The MP Service School Commandant is a full Colonel (Director), with a second in command being a Lt. Colonel (Subdirector). The Candidates’ Corps is under the responsibility of a Major or a Captain. There are Academic, Pedagogic, and Administrative sections.
The Canine Production Center is also part of the MP Service School. This unique outfit is in charge of “producing” dogs for training in the various specialties required by the MPs.
Missions & Tasks
According to the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena), the missions and tasks assigned to the Mexican Military Police can be summarized in seven points:
1. To keep order, discipline, and the enforcement of the Law, Regulations, Orders, and Dispositions in military installations and military units.
2. To provide security and protection of HQ centers, Military Installations and Military Dependencies.
3. Transit organization and direction.
4. Take custody, provide evacuation and exert control of POWs, and military personnel under detention.
5. Cooperation with special investigative tasks, and prevention and investigation of suspected spies and saboteurs.
6. Enforcement of physical security measures of individuals, information and property.
7. Protection of individuals, public property, and prevention and deployment for riot control in emergency cases, and/or in support of the Judicial Military Police.
The specific mission entrusted to the Military Police Corps is to plan, direct, and coordinate the operational and administration of subordinate units. The mission of the MP Brigade is to carry on specific tasks as ordered or established by the Mexican Army High Command. The same mission statement applies to the battalion. And at all three levels, the mission must be done under the motto: PRECAUCION, DESCONFIANZA Y REACCION (Precaution, distrust and reaction).
Military Police Corps: Line Units
Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales – Military Police Corps
1st Military Police Brigade, Temamatla
General HQ Group
1st MP BN
2nd MP BN
3rd MP BN
2nd Military Police Brigade, Military Camp No.37-D Santa Lucia, Mexico DF HQ Group
4th MP BN
5th MP BN
6th MP BN
3rd Military Police Brigade, Military Camp No.1-A Mexico DF. HQ Group
7th MP BN
9th MP BN
10th MP BN
Guardias Presidenciales, Military Police
1st and 2nd MP Battalions of the Presidential Guard
Immediate Reaction Force
3RD MP BDE.
1st MP BN/1st MP BDE.
1st Special Ops Bn.
2nd Special Ops Bn.
3rd Special Ops Bn.
MP Companies Attached to the Following Territorial Forces:
I REGION MILITAR – Federal District
1 ZM – Tacubaya, FD
22 ZM – Toluca, Mexico
23 ZM – Panotla, Tlax.
24 ZM – Cuernavaca, Morelia
37 ZM – Santa Lucia, Mexico
II REGION MILITAR – Mexicali, Baja California
2 ZM – Tijuana, Baja California
3 ZM – La Paz, Baja California
4 ZM – Hermosillo, Sonora
40 ZM – Guerrero Negro, BCS
III REGION MILITAR – Mazatlan, Sinaloa
9 ZM – Culiacan, Sinaloa
10 ZM – Durango, Dgo.
IV REGION MILITAR – Tancol, Tamperico
7 ZM -Escobedo, NL
12 ZM – San Luis Potosi, SLP
8 ZM – Reynosa, Tamps
V REGION MILITAR – Guadalajara, Jalisco
11ZM – Guadalupe, Zac
14 ZM – Aguas Calientes, Ags
15 ZM – La Morena, Jalisco
20 ZM – Colima, Col
41 ZM – Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
VI REGION MILITAR – La Boticaria, Varacruz
13ZM -Tepic, Nayarit
18 ZM – Pachuca, Hidalgo
19 ZM – Tuxpan, Veracruz
25 ZM – Puebla, Puebla
26 ZM – El Lencero, Veracruz
VII REGION MILITAR – Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas
30 ZM – Villahermosa, Tabasco
31 ZM – Rancho Nuevo, Hgo
36 ZM – Tapachula, Chiapas
38 ZM – Tenosique, Tabasco
39 ZM – Ocosingo, Chiapas
VIII REGION MILITAR – Ixtepec, Oaxaca
28 ZM – Ixcotel, Oaxaca
29 ZM – Minatitlan, Veracruz
44 ZM – Miahuatlan, Oaxaca
IX REGION MILITAR – Cumbres de Llano Largo, Guerrero
27 ZM – Ticui, Guerrero
35 ZM – Chilpancingo, Guerrero
X REGION MILITAR – Merida, Yucatan
32 ZM – Valladolid, Yucatan
33ZM – Campeche, Campeche
34ZM – Chetumal, Quintana Roo
XI REGION MILITAR – Torreon, Coah
5 ZM – Chihuahua, Chihuahua
6ZM – Saltillo, Coah
42 ZM – Santa Gertrudiz, Chihuahua
XII REGION MILITAR – Irapuato, Gto.
16 ZM – Sarabia, Gto.
17 ZM – Queretaro, Queretaro
21 ZM – Morelia, Michoacan
43 ZM – Apatzingan, Michoacan
MP Platoons Attached to the Following Military Garrisons:
BAJA CALIFORNIA:1. Military Garrison Cipres
2. Mil. Gar. Tecate
3. Mil. Gar. San Felipe
4.Mil. Gar. San Luis Colorado
5. Mil. Gar. Nogales
6. Mil. Gar. Agua Prieta
7. Mil. Gar. Sonoyta
8. Mil. Gar. Ciudad Juarez
9. Mil. Gar. Ojinaga
10. Mil. Gar. Palomas
11. Mil. Gar. Acuña
12. Mil. Gar. Piedras Negras
13. Mil. Gar. Nuevo Laredo
14. Mil. Gar. Matamoros
15. Mil. Gar. Manzanillo
16. Mil. Gar. Lazaro Cardenas
17. Mil. Gar. Puerto Escondido
18. Mil. Gar. Coatzacoalcos
19. Mil. Gar. San Cristobal de las Casas
20. Mil. Gar. Palenque
21. Mil. Gar. Comitan de Dominguez
22. Mil. Gar. Cozumel
23. Mil. Gar. Cancun
24. Mil. Gar. Melaque
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N6 (March 2002)|